In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This time around, we’re picking our favorite songs that feature s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g.
Pulp was born in 1978 as Arabicus Pulp, but it wasn’t until the mid-’90s that the Sheffield band found fame or success. That success grew largely out of its 1992 album, His ’N’ Hers, and the following 1995 full-length, Different Class. By the time Pulp was a teenager, frontman Jarvis Cocker had perfected his sex-god persona, with his songs oozing a loosely controlled eroticism. “Common People” is usually recognized as the song off Different Class, but the whole album is stellar, the songs building on a feral lust grounded in Cocker’s deep growl. “F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E.” comes near the end of the album, and at six minutes, it’s the longest song on an album of longish songs (“Common People” and the aggressively sexual “I Spy” are each nearly six minutes). It doesn’t feel long enough, though: The first minute and 18 seconds is instrumental foreplay, interrupted by Cocker’s intimate, spoken-word description of the inside of a bedroom. It’s another minute of pillow talk before the chorus climaxes with questions nobody really knows the answer to: Why does anybody fall in love? Why me? Why you? Why here? Why now? Nobody sings about sex quite like Jarvis Cocker: It’s lustful and sexy, sure—“I see flashes of the shape of your breasts and the curve of your belly”—but it’s also, in Cocker’s own words, “dirtier than that / like some small animal that only comes out at night.”
In the background, Cocker cries out, “What is this thing that is happening to me? / F-E-E-L-I-N-G / C-A double-L E-D / L-O / V-E,” while he whispers, “And the whole world begins to spin and spin outside the window / Faster and faster and faster / And this is the only place in focus / The hook upon which everything else revolves.” The spelling puts a little more distance between the listener and the narrator’s confused emotions, as though saying the words again outright would make everything more real. We’re left with these intimate descriptions of a bedroom but only the outlines of actual emotions, and the song ends in a shimmer of afterglow and sweat—neither on a note of giddy lust nor on one of resigned disgust, but somewhere in between.