Disclosure. When a band I’ve kept ears on for what seems like years covers a song from a long-time loved album, my interest is a lil more that piqued. And when that band has the dark post-punk sass of Desperate Journalist, and the track is from Pulp’s ‘This Is Hardcore‘, I’d be a fool to not to write this thing up.
By way of an intro to each… ‘This Is Hardcore’ is Pulp’s post-Britpop album that told us the party was over. Filled with loathing for fame that was hard sought for decades, filled with hangover pangs and self-doubt, Pulp’s wry suburb tails of seedy interactions got swapped out for 40s noir sleaze. Once the life-long voyeur and outsider of pop found himself as the star of the show, Cocker took stock of the hollow, the empty, and produced something thick-set and ugly.
So now let us turn our attention. I developed more than a slightly soft spot for Desperate Journalist around time of ‘Grow Up‘. They outshone a band I’d set out to review, I might have walked midway through headline act. And from that show and onwards, their cool retro jangle of gothic tinged indie, it solidified, settled and thickened. So here we end up, with the first of a run of one off cover versions from acts out on Fierce Panda Records; Desperate Journalist covering ‘The Fear‘.
It’s impossible not to compare them, I know the original too well. It’s cinematic claustrophobia and worn tawdry feel is a go to for slow-headed Sundays. And this version gives just the same kick. It’s sleek, it sounds desperate, the words keep their spite, it’s as urgent and bleak as it should be.
But instead of the slick glut of waning guitars against Cocker’s sly vocal and sneer, Jo Bevan’s voice moves pristine and chilled to the sound of wire-thin ghostly scratchings. The change in the texture is startling, it’s eerie, it’s desolate, lonely. This version does to ‘The Fear‘, as Siouxsie and the Banshees did to ‘Dear Prudence’.
As we move through the felt and the chorus soaked chimes, as we pick chattering backings, echos of Belly and Cranberries slide by and we’re caught in the scrawl of the soundscape. Towards the end of the song, in the track’s central breakdown, the gap between versions gets wider. Where Pulp had a choir of pained voices wail, here we drift into Cure like ethereals.
If this version hadn’t managed to own itself so completely, I’d miss the original’s weight. But with so much between them, with such different takes, it’s unfair to compare and contrast. Desperate Journalist’s ‘The Fear‘ is a blast.