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Post Info TOPIC: Uncommon by Owen Hatherley


Rattlesnake

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Uncommon by Owen Hatherley
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Does anyone know anything about this new book about Pulp?

http://www.zero-books.net/book/detail/1550/Uncommon

Looks pretty interesting.



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Hardcore

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He's a really interesting writer in class and culture (particularly architecture) who has a great blog. This appeared in The Guardian today, which I presume comes from his book: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/14/pulp-festivals

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Hardcore

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Anyone read this yet? I've ordered it today. The best price seems to be here:

http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Uncommon-Owen-Hatherley/9781846948770



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The Only Way is Down

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Excerpt here: http://upclosemaspersonal.blogspot.com/2011/06/we-live-round-here-too-oh-really.html

Radio programme with author discussing themes of certain Pulp songs: http://dominorad.io/show/all_things_reconsidered_with_richard_king

Interesting listening if quite highbrow at times! It's(They're) just (a) fucking song(s).

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Hardcore

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Having a day off to recover from Wireless so I've read this is one go this morning. So, for what it's worth, here's my review.

It is a self-avowedly intellectual take on Pulp but Hatherley is clearly a real fan. Some of the writing is rather dense and the Intro is rather laboured in its attempts to theorise Pulp. And playing Hatherley at his own game, I'd favour Freud's notion of the unheimlich (uncanny/unhomely) over Shklovsky's Ostranienie (making strange/enstrangement). I was reminded of Jarvis' comment in No Sleep 'til Sheffield that people have china dray horses because they like them, not because they're kitsch. Anyway, academic quibbling aside, Hatherley is good in the Intro in differentiating Pulp from their Britpop contemporaries.

In the main body of the book Hatherley gets into his stride and displays a lighter touch. The trainspotter in me particularly liked the insertion of Pulp lyrics into the text as well as their use in subheadings. Hatherley's focus is on the meanings of Pulp's records: their lyrics, soundscapes, cover artwork, sleevenotes and videos, "taking the line that the artist's actual intentions are secondary, and that once they have let a work out into the world, they've lost control over it". This may frustrate some, but, taken on these terms, I found it an enjoyable read that provoked me to revisit songs familiar to me (the magnificent rendition of I-Spy on Later) and seek out lesser and unknown ones.

Hatherley is also candid about his own identification with Pulp as a teenager in the mid-1990s (he's young enough to be their son) and their appeal to self-proclaimed misfits and outsiders across generations. Coming from Southampton (where I also grew up), he also rightly evokes an appeal in a shared decaying post-war urban landscape across the north-south divide that once appeared to offer a promise of a brave new future. This is not surprising as Hatherley is mainly known for his writing on architecture, particularly, post-war brutalism. He's also good on the role of domestic interiors and their furnishings and paraphernalia in Pulp's songs. I liked the comparison with Martin Parr and the Signs of the Times documentary tv series but I think Pulp differs in their position as viewers of everyday life from the inside rather than the outside.

Writing with passion and enthusiasm, Hatherley doesn't shy away from criticism. There's a fine analysis of the shortcomings of This is Hardcore. And, consequently, I was inspired to try out his alternative mix on my iPod, to which I think I will return often. If I have one quibble with the book it's that Hatherley is perhaps a little too keen to claim Pulp as a working class band. As Jarvis has said himself, his upbringing wasn't exactly solidly proletarian and he only really felt working class when he came to London (there's a tendency amongst southerners to think of anyone with a northern accent as working class). And, although it was there at the beginning, I would have like a little more on the art school context (explored really well in Michael Bracewell's book on Roxy Music Re-make/Re-model) and the possibilities and transformations that offered. But I applaud his attempt to reclaim the political sensibilities and possibilities of Pulp's songs (a point brought home only too clearly to me on Sunday at Wireless when the braying posh couple who'd barged in front of me seemed to only, ironically, know the words to Common People).

Hatherley seems more than a little dubious about Pulp's recent reunion (or coming off hiatus) and stops just short of accusing them of cashing in. This is a criticism that could be levelled at him, although he has claimed in interviews that the book was conceived before this. However, I suspect that his publishers were keen to get the book out promptly. Perhaps, this undue haste might explain the many unfortunate typographic howlers that could have been eliminated by careful typesetting and proofreading. In conclusion, this book might make a fine accompaniment to the faber book of Jarvis' lyrics. But, please do not read the words whilst listening to the recordings. And if you don't like this sort of intellectualising thing (I, for one, think that popular culture is worthy of serious consideration like any other form of art), then, of course, you don't have to read it.



-- Edited by Deborah on Tuesday 5th of July 2011 03:18:48 PM



-- Edited by Deborah on Tuesday 5th of July 2011 03:23:35 PM



-- Edited by Deborah on Tuesday 5th of July 2011 06:08:01 PM

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The Only Way is Down

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Great review Deborah! Haven't got it so interesting to read an enlightened opinion on it.

I'll take your word for this: (as I wouldn't have a clue!)

 ''I'd favour Freud's notion of the unheimlich (uncanny/unhomely) over Shklovsky's Ostranienie (making strange/enstrangement).''

And this is a good point:

''I was reminded of Jarvis' comment in No Sleep 'til Sheffield that people have china dray horses because they like them, not because they're kitsch.''


That delicate line between ''holidaying in other people's misery'' that can arguably be levelled at Jarvis on Catcliffe Shakedown or the aghast expressed at domesticity and coupledom of His'n'Hers (the song) could be mistakenly taken as examples of his curmudgeon, superior attitude.

But those oft repeated early-90's accusations of Pulp being ''kitsch'' and ''ironic'' and your quote shows that he also had the empathy to realise things seen as tacky (the china dray horses, the on-stage gimmicks Pulp used to have) are often viewed that way by the true condescenders, rather than being touches of quirkiness and the little buzz of happiness that might accompany them.


This quote from Nick kind of sums that up:

''I suppose there is a kind of glamour in everyday things out there - it's difficult to say exactly what. But you know, just because you are an ordinary person, just doing say a mundane job, doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't aspire to having a glamorous feeling about who you are. Even if you are a school cleaner, just having a bit of glitter eye shadow, and stamping your individuality on and saying: 'Yeah, hey, I might be just a cleaner, but hey, I want to be glamorous too.''



-- Edited by Eamonn on Tuesday 5th of July 2011 04:40:17 PM

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Hardcore

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Thanks Eamonn. Great quote from Nick!

I also meant to say in the review that it's a shame the book hasn't got an index of song titles - so you can go straight to where they're mentioned. But indexes are time-consuming and publishers don't like paying to have them done professionally and authors don't like doing them.


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Hardcore

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Deborah wrote:

Having a day off to recover from Wireless so I've read this is one go this morning. So, for what it's worth, here's my review.

It is a self-avowedly intellectual take on Pulp but Hatherley is clearly a real fan.... [cropped]  

...But, please do not read the words whilst listening to the recordings. And if you don't like this sort of intellectualising thing (I, for one, think that popular culture is worthy of serious consideration like any other form of art), then, of course, you don't have to read it.


 

*liked*

Sounds like Mr. Hatherley wrote the book I always wished I had the talent to write. Good on him! I will have to check it out.

[Can't deny I'm slightly jealous though... At least I can cross 'write Pulp book' off my bucket list.] 

 



-- Edited by Fuss Free on Tuesday 5th of July 2011 05:59:57 PM

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Cocaine Socialist

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The book sounds really good, however it seems to be written around the assumption that Pulp are a working class band, which they are quite obviously NOT... pretty much all the band members were lower middle class in the mid 80s, and their backgrounds, whilst perhaps not particularly well off, were far removed from those employed by the heavy industries and those who did menial jobs for the local council. Class is definitely not defined by how much money you earn, and I think it's difficult to class any member of a healthy arts scene as 'working class' just as it's difficult to give a university student the same tag, no matter how little money they may be living off.

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You Brits and your obsession with class.. 



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calumlynn wrote:

The book sounds really good, however it seems to be written around the assumption that Pulp are a working class band, which they are quite obviously NOT... pretty much all the band members were lower middle class in the mid 80s, and their backgrounds, whilst perhaps not particularly well off, were far removed from those employed by the heavy industries and those who did menial jobs for the local council. Class is definitely not defined by how much money you earn, and I think it's difficult to class any member of a healthy arts scene as 'working class' just as it's difficult to give a university student the same tag, no matter how little money they may be living off.


 

Agreed.

Yes, their backgrounds seem more lower middle-class and in Jarvis' case, for want of a better word, bohemian. His mum did go to art college after all. And all those years on the dole living in squats and makeshift housing didn't necessarily make them working class. This "different class" rejects both lower middle class aspirations (His 'n' Hers) and bourgeois values (I-Spy). And, it's also why I think the art school context is so important. You don't exactly go to art school expecting to enter a profession and make a lot of money (despite what we're being told about training and employability in the current climate) - it's a very particular sensibility about creativity, self-expression and pushing boundaries. A lot of people who go to art school (no matter what class they've come from) continue to live a very student-like hand-to-mouth "alternative" existence years after they've left. I was very touched by Jarvis talking on Sunday about how important St Martin's was for him and supporting the student protests. 

And also the point about them being positioned as working class once they were in London by others and maybe also adopting that position as an alternative to being subsumed into a middle-class establishment.



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Hardcore

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Would somebody like to explain the difference between 'working class' and 'lower middle class'.

Is it the difference between a bricklayer and an admin assistant? Same pay, dirtier job?

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Fuss Free wrote:

Would somebody like to explain the difference between 'working class' and 'lower middle class'.

Is it the difference between a bricklayer and an admin assistant? Same pay, dirtier job?


Yeah, the official classification is a mess. A call centre worker on £18k is 'lower middle class', but an electrician on £35 an hour is 'skilled working class'.



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Legendary

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Wait, there's an official classification?

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Cocaine Socialist

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There is no 'official classification'. I'm lower middle class, my parents are from working class backgrounds and went to uni, my mam is a careers advisor (though is losing her job next month), my dad works in the press office for the local council, they dont earn much money, got a little house, I get grants towards uni etc however we're also relatively cultured, politically informed, vegetarian, national trust members etc etc, yeah we don't host dinner parties and are members of a wine club or anything but we're pretty much middle class. What i mean is that class isn't about how much you earn.

And no way an electrician on £35 an hour would be 'working class'! I mean I'm generalising here, but anyone like that probably lives in a detached house on a new build estate with cream walls and a huge telly... Nouveau Riche, a little, perhaps.

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Sturdy wrote:

Wait, there's an official classification?


Really there are a few, and it turns out people's self-description doesn't correlate very well with what they're told they're supposed to think they are, but putting that aside the one opinion pollsters and election whatsits (psephologists if my spelling serves) use is the A, B, C1, C2, D, E classification. AB being middle class, C1 being lower middle class, C2 being skilled working class, and DE being working class or lower. But it breaks down at C1/C2 because it's essentially just a manual / non-manual division.

I can't copy the link because Google is screwed up, but if you search "What determines the way people vote in the UK?" on Google you get one result, a powerpoint, which sets some of this out on the second page.

It was a bit silly of me to use the word 'official' colloquially, because there is an official socio-economic classification, it's just nobody much apart from the ONS uses it. It's here: http://www.ons.gov.uk/about-statistics/classifications/current/ns-sec/cats-and-classes/analytic-classes/index.html



-- Edited by jdc on Wednesday 6th of July 2011 01:38:15 PM

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Another review from a couple of weeks ago:

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/106645?


Uncommon
by Owen Hatherley (Zero Books, £9.99)
Monday 04 July 2011 by James Walsh Printable Email

On Sunday the reformed Pulp played London's Wireless festival.

You could have gone for £55.25, not including booking fee, or £155 for the Club Experience Package, which featured a private entrance away from the common people, a chill-out area and hot and cold barbecue platters.

As the VIPs chatted and took photographs of each other in their private grandstand, the lanky working-class Jarvis Cocker was on stage, screaming: "You will NEVER understand how it FEELS to live your life with no MEANING or control..."

In Uncommon, Owen Hatherley has produced a wonderful long essay on the "articulate and increasingly furious" working-class pop group Pulp which Cocker fronts.

As the author reminds us, it's barely believable now that this band from Sheffield "managed to send a krautrock epic about class warfare to number 2 and then used this public goodwill to convince tens of thousands to purchase a despairing six-minute dirge on the subject of amateur pornography three years later."

Hatherley's avowed intention is to save Jarvis and band from their association with Britpop, described here as a musical movement "at its most rhythmically inert and vacantly optimistic," anchored in a "Poujadist national resentment."

They deserve better than to be remembered merely alongside the mockney class tourism of Damon Albarn's Blur.

Pulp songs were deeper, truer - twisting, complex worlds of compelling narratives and exotic detail.

Their mastery of the themes of class, sex, and urbanism - the latter Hatherley's area of expertise - means that the songs deserve the detailed analysis received here.

Through the band's finest moments - their febrile Sheffield synth songs of acrylic, adultery, and failed council visions of the future, the epic class revenge fantasies of Different Class and the prescient sex-as-voyeuristic capitalist-exchange masterwork This Is Hardcore - the author sees what Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky called Ostranienie, "a technique that makes the most mundane daily acts into extraordinary rituals."

Pulp are likely to be the last major pop group to be "consciously working class and consciously, unashamedly arty," due to the neoliberal drive to end welfare and free universal education.

Though understandable, the band's reformation for festival appearances like Wireless is perhaps a sadder end than this book suggests they deserve.



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calumlynn wrote:

my mam is a careers advisor .


Are you from the north east? You must be upper working class if you say mam and possibly a Geordie.

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I went to school in Kenton where the kids said mam and mammy, now I work up the road in Gosforth where they have middle schools and the kids say mum and mummy.


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I'm sorry- you say that money doesnt determine whether you're working class, but an electrician - which is still a generally unglamorous position that requires a lot of hours of demanding work - is somehow hopelessly bourgeois because he makes £35 an hour? Thats just plain elititisism.

"Karl Marx defined the working class or proletariat as individuals who sell their labor power for wages and who do not own the means of production. He argued that they were responsible for creating the wealth of a society. He asserted that the working class physically build bridges, craft furniture, grow food, and nurse children, but do not own land, (ie: the private property that workers tended to) or factories."

My father was a lineman for a truly wicked phone company that after 30+ years of physically intensive work left him with permant damage to his spine and is now trying to rob him of both his pension and his health insurance. And yeah, I grew up in the suburbs, I had all basic utilities, but only because he and my mother worked tirelessly to provide for us. You're going to tell me that's not working class?

Sorry to sound harsh, but that really touched a nerve. cry



-- Edited by Holden on Tuesday 30th of August 2011 04:52:51 PM

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I can't imagine anyone meant any offence to anyone. You can't really categorise people anyway.

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