Song 360: Pulp, “Like a Friend” (1998)

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I didn’t know much about Pulp before I heard “Like a Friend,” and I still don’t, not really. I know that the band’s been around forever, and I know a handful of great, great songs, but for some reason, I never fully investigated them. I suppose I should.

In the meantime, there’s “Like a Friend,” a song that was originally written and recorded for the Great Expectations soundtrack and was later added to rereleased versions of the band’s record This Is Hardcore. I’ve written before about how much I admire and respect Jarvis Cocker’s writing ability, and this song is a good example of what I love about him: he’s pretty angry about this gone-wrong relationship, but there’s also a sense of acceptance about his own responsibility in the matter.

When the song kicks into high gear, it’s as if Cocker is simultaneously acknowledging his role in the toxic relationship: by saying “You are the car I never should have bought,” Cocker’s essentially saying, “You’re bad news, but I should have known that.” On top of all that awareness, which he and the band pound away at like an angry subconscious, there’s the fact that Cocker absolutely nails the frustrating thing about friendship. Feelings are hard, emotions are complicated. It’s not like a car accident, when an insurance company can just name one party as “at fault.” Though that would be nice.

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