“What exactly do you do for an encore?” You go on tour for the first time in over a decade. Legendary English rock band Pulp, whose songs span topics from perverse and frustrating sex to the UK class system, first split up in 2002 after their release of We Love Life. They reunited in 2011, releasing only one single, “After You.” The last time the band performed was in February of 2013. Now, they are teaming up, once again, to tour 11 cities in Summer 2023.
Jarvis Cocker, founder, frontman, and only regular member of Pulp, semi–officially announced the tour via a secretive post on Instagram. The Oct. 27 post had a caption that reads ”Big announcement here just before midday tomorrow. #justsaying #bigbigbig.” In July, Cocker and drummer Nick Banks began to clue fans into a reunion. Banks tweeted, “Stay calm, hug your #pulp records and dream of going mental sometime in 2023.”
@welovepulp, the new Instagram for the band, followed by posting “What exactly do you do for an encore?” which fans know as lyrics to “This is Hardcore,” the title track to their sixth critically acclaimed album. A follow up post on Oct. 28 announced the dates for their show with the caption “This is what we do for an encore …” Pulp does a lot right, and making a comeback is the perfect next step.
Unfortunately for US fans, the band will only be touring in the UK and Ireland. “This country is the country that made Pulp famous, where we sold most records and where we knew most people,” Cocker told Lauren Laverne of BBC Radio 6 Music, “I’m sure that we’ll probably play in other places around the world, but it just seemed appropriate to do it here first.”
Steve Mackey, bassist for Pulp, will not be in attendance. “There have been wide reports of a full reunion for UK concerts today. However I've decided to continue the work I’m engaged in—music, filmmaking and photography projects, and will not be joining them for these UK shows just announced,” Mackey wrote on his Instagram. He displayed gratitude for the band, and Cocker reposted the announcement, signaling no bad blood between the former band members. Keyboardist Candida Doyle, Drummer Nick Banks, and guitarist Mark Webber will be joining Cocker on the tour.
On select shows, Wet Leg, the band that blew up for their songs “Chaise Longue” and “Wet Dream” will be joining the tour for their London show in Finsbury Park, which has already sold out. Richard Hawley, who has played for Pulp in the past, will be joining their tour dates in their hometown of Sheffield, South Yorkshire, which too have sold out. Pulp fans have expressed disappointment, unable to get limited tickets as they enter the digital competitive age of ticket buying, with bots and scalpers.
What does this tour mean for the band? Britpop fans hope that a new era of Pulp is reemerging from its 20th century ashes. Pulp has gone through numerous changes, cycling over 20 different band members for their developing sound. Cocker has remained the only consistent member of the band. Starting the band when he was just 15 years old, Cocker first called the band Arabicus Pulp back in 1978. Though relatively unknown in the 80s, Pulp entered the Britpop genre with a force that neither Gallaghers nor Damon Albarn could’ve expected, with Different Class, one of the most influential Britpop albums of all time. Purposely staying on the outside of the Britpop war between northern working–class Oasis or southern middle–class Blur, and in the midst of the New Labour era of British government, Pulp created their own path.
Pulp revolutionized Proletariat pop, a feat that could not be accomplished without the titled gawkiest sex–symbol in England that is Cocker. From securing his Austin–Powers–esque glasses with a rubber band so that he can rock on stage, to crashing Michael Jackson’s performance at the 1996 Brit Awards to moon the crowd in #Jarvisgate, he is the eccentric glue of the band.
Disillusionment with stardom led to one of Pulp’s greatest albums, This is Hardcore. Cocker realized that his “songs about panic attacks, pornography, fear of death” would alienate some fans, but Pulp was not interested in commercial success as the rest of the Big 4 of Britpop were. “At the time we just laughed at [Britpop],” Banks said, “We’d been lumped in with many, many scenes over the years. We just couldn't relate to it, we weren’t bothered …”
While the band hasn’t assembled for a decade, the members have been booked and busy. Cocker has had multiple solo projects, one being his band JARV IS that he started in 2017. He has done work for cult classic films like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and most recently, French Dispatch. Cocker and Mackey remastered Pulp’s catalog in 2020, according to Mackey. A documentary called Pulp: a Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets was released in 2014, chronicling their hometown show in Sheffield in 2012 which was at the time thought to be their last concert.
While still being a bit more obscure than their competitors, Pulp has cemented their role in the British rock scene forever. Their return is a sign of the times: economic and political instability in Britain. The placidity of the modern rock scene is ready for the subversive sounds of Pulp, singing for the common folk and their weird sexual habits.