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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Disco 2000" speaks beyond its titular year

Pulp’s song — framed around a future that’s become the past — makes me grapple with my understanding of time unlike any other.

Like all media, the perception of pieces of music tends to shift over time. Pieces that were once controversial may now be seen in retrospect as trailblazing; the pop with which we fell in love in our formative years may now seem all too saccharine or out of touch; social anthems only become more poignant as the issues they confront increasingly manifest.

Today’s selection has seen a perceptual shift for none of the above reasons — instead, it’s the temporality baked into the song that makes it all the more curious to investigate.

Back when Pulp released "Disco 2000" as part of their album Different Class, that millennium year was still more than four trips around the sun away. It was late 1995, and frontman Jarvis Cocker and company looked toward the year as a time by which they could get things right; going by the song’s narrative, 2000 was when Cocker and his childhood friend could meet up again, now fully grown and living their own lives. However, I approach the song having been born in 2000 and thus always thinking of that year in the past tense. When I hear "Let’s all meet up in the year 2000," I think of it as a return to blissful innocence, rather than a look ahead to a clearer future.

As different as these two perspectives on the song are, though, a common thread can be found: a desire to get away, to free oneself from the shackles of one’s current place and time. Whether past or present, 2000 is at the very least somewhere different, and that in itself makes the tune appeal to a wide audience.

Musically, "Disco 2000" owes a lot to the genre in its name. Nick Banks’ four-on-the-floor beat and hi-hat use calls right back to the inception of disco with the Trammps and other trailblazers, while the high synth is just string-like enough to further pay tribute to that era. Then there’s the undeniable similarity of the main verse riff to that of "Gloria," made popular by Laura Branigan in 1982. Having said that, there’s no mistaking Pulp’s track for a 70s or 80s romp — the treatment of the drums and the mix of Russell Senior and Mark Webber’s guitars all suggest the burgeoning Britpop scene of the 90s, of which the band, among all its tumult, were key figures. Personally, I’ve always felt like the instrumental bordered on sounding a little cheesy, but maybe that’s just an effect of me having not lived through the 90s and embraced that sound in its heyday.

As much as those aspects of the track interest me, though, it’ll stand out to me more because of Jarvis Cocker’s lyrics. The childhood crush-themed narrative, parlaying early innocence with the later resignation of life taking its course, stands out to me for its realism. There’s something approachable about lyrics of the "very small" house "with wood chip on the wall," and the pining for an old love — even one-sided — when you’re "living down here on [your] own." It probably helps that Cocker is drawing from personal experiences; "Deborah" is based on his early friend Deborah Bone (1963–2014), for whom he sang "Disco 2000" at her 50th birthday party (a little awkward, maybe, given the lyrics? All in good fun regardless).

As I listen to Pulp’s song once more while I wrap up this post, I think I get why "Disco 2000" has so consistently transcended its temporal bounds. The dance-friendly rhythms combined with the nostalgic narrative those beats soften all in all make me feel like the track inhabits a moment of reflection a drink or two in at your local club. You want to get up and move, but your thoughts are plagued by memories of that person you always thought got away. When you do make your way to the floor, you do so either to combat those memories, or to get lost in them (I’d say more the latter here). That’s a sensation not bounded by any year.


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