More than any other band of the '90s, Pulp were quintessentially British -- not the same thing as being quintessentially Britpop, mind you, which is an entirely different thing. Though it was frequently fey, at least when Blur were concerned, Britpop was for the lager-loving lads, a patriotic celebration of the country, particularly its pop culture heritage. Pulp shared many of those same roots as their peers, plus they were pop obsessives, capturing the intuitive, subliminal things that separated the dedicated from the poseurs. They were the misshapes, misfits -- the art-loving geeks grown beautiful who had a brief moment in the sun before they returned to the outskirts of pop life. To some observers, that might have looked like they were dropping the ball, but turning to the murky darkness of This Is Hardcore after the shining Different Class was artier and more natural than Blur's similar turn with 13, and they made better singles when they returned to arty darkness, too, as Hits, a glorious recap of their stint at Island in the '90s, illustrates. Pulp, of course, had been around long before they moved to Island, but it wasn't until the early '90s that they truly came into their own, starting with Pulpintro EP and the sublime "Babies" single. From there, they produced four terrific albums, including one stone masterpiece (1995's Different Class which, years later, stands alongside Parklife as the greatest testament of Britpop), the near-perfect His 'n' Hers, the fascinating decadence of This Is Hardcore, and the gorgeous Scott Walker-produced We Love Life. Each album has a different character, a different feel, but throughout it all, Pulp turned out tremendous singles that functioned within the context of the album and as their own entity because they were vividly imagined and sharply written, which may be why they hold together so well as their own album. Apart from the image-defining "Mis-Shapes," there's nothing missing from Hits, and while these are songs identified with their time, they transcend it, with even the new contribution, "Last Day of the Miners' Strike," holding its own on a collection of singles as strong as anything in '90s pop music.
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