PULP – “The Night That Minnie Tymperly Died” (live MP3)

Jarvis Cocker’s songs spell out patterns of behaviour, return time and again to themes which streak through his writing like mold in cheese. Latterly, exhaustion and redemption: always, though, women. Cocker obsesses over women, particularly their youth, their passion, their burning potential. If there’s one thing that he can’t escape from as a songwriter, it’s the tragedy of young, perfect girls becoming old and defeated. Luscious, precocious Susan in “Inside Susan”; Deborah in “Disco 2000”; the fallen heroines of “Sylvia” and “Live Bed Show”; even the love object in “This Is Hardcore” – desire for Pulp is horribly entwined with disappointment and decay.

It’s a fucked-up attitude but it makes for some blistering pop. And it’s hardly a surprise when beautiful Minnie Tymperly ends up dead. And it shouldn’t be a surprise, too, that the song – a grand, wonderful glam ballad – balances so strangely between anguish and celebration. Not for Minnie the kitchen sink compromises if a traditional Cocker heroine: she goes out on a high note, impossibly desirable. “The world wants to sleep with you tonight”, sighs the chorus.

Yes, there’s something creepy about the song and about how much Cocker throws himself into it. But there’s something very powerful here too – a murder ballad, if you like, that puts its spotlight squarely on the victim, not the crime. “The Night That Minnie Tymperly Died” belies its title, leaving us with a snapshot of someone fiercely alive, and only Cocker’s moaned regret to remind us that this story can’t end happily. But then in Jarvis Country it never could.

(This song is apparently a work in progress. It’ll probably get released and turn out to be about a car.)