Stories are told against the backdrop of a bustling market entrance, a dilapidated warehouse and a city of industry crushed by the Thatcher regime. Captured with true northern grit, this Sheffield is a crumbling citadel full of salt of the earth types and pop heroes who aren't too successful that they can't change their own car tyre - demonstrated expertly by charismatic frontman Jarvis Cocker during the film's introduction. Common People, the band's career-defining hit, is the first live performance; as the song approaches its peak the sound gently fades, only to be continued by a local harmony group. Habicht's doc is very much about the people that inspired Pulp's music - the 'common people' themselves. Sycophancy simply doesn't exist in this city or in the confines of this film. Instead, what's documented is a celebration of the band's solid foundations and the very root of their lyrical inspiration.
Archive footage of the band's earlier live performances give some scope to their journey. Keyboardist Candida Doyle tells of the days when times were so hard that they created their stage regalia using kitchen foil and attempted - and failed - to make their own dry ice (only a plateful at that). Pulp's back catalogue warms the nostalgic cockles as it's drip-fed throughout and during some mesmerising concert footage that serves to remind how captivating a performer Cocker can be. Cover versions from Sheffield Harmony and a heartwarming rendition of Help the Aged in a café illustrate the rewarding influence the band's success have had on the community. One would perhaps expect a Pulp documentary to focus on Cocker and give insight to the man behind the performer but this documentary is not the platform for such. Instead the focus is spread evenly, ensuring that each of the band members get equal recognition for their part played.
Pulp tells a commendably humble story of a band and the city that inspired their music. They're a band of the people and like its many of the remarkable subjects documented here, they have no heirs, graces or delusions of grandeur. The group's incredible live performances speak for themselves and without the blowing of proverbial trumpets. Subtle suggestions reflect Pulp's largely unspoken phenomenon as Jarvis emerges, ten million albums and a sell out comeback tour under his belt, through a thick cloud of properly formed dry ice, into the film's neatly framed conclusion and to the cacophonous roar of a proud hometown singing wholeheartedly as Common People reaches its peak. This isn't just a film about a band; it's the story of Sheffield as only Pulp - with a little help from Habitcht - have the capacity to tell.
Sheffield Doc/Fest takes place from 7-12 June 2014. For more of our Sheffield Doc/Fest coverage, follow this link.