"This is the sound of someone losing the plot/you're gonna like it, but not a lot." So says Jarvis Cocker on "The Fear," the opening track on This Is Hardcore, the ambitious follow-up to Pulp's breakthrough Different Class, thereby providing his own review for the album. Cocker doesn't quite lose the plot on This Is Hardcore, but the ominous, claustrophobic "The Fear" makes it clear that this is a different band, one that no longer has anthems like "Common People" in mind. The shift in direction shouldn't come as a surprise -- Pulp was always an arty band -- but even the catchiest numbers are shrouded in darkness. An artistic triumph.