The second Pulp album, 1986's FREAKS sees several changes from the band's debut of three years prior. The overall mood is much more sinister and aggressive (the album's subtitle is "Ten Songs about Power, Claustrophobia, Suffocation, and Holding Hands."), alternately recalling such early Smiths tracks as "Suffer Little Children" and some of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "The Carny."
FREAKS also finds main lyricist Jarvis Cocker handing over the vocal reins to guitarist Russell Senior on two particularly creepy songs. The first, "Fairground," opens the album with a swirling tale of a freak show, while the second, "Anorexic Beauty," is an ode to a distressingly thin woman ("Brittle hands and thin cigarettes, so hard to tell apart"). Elsewhere, "Being Followed Home" presents a story of stalking set against a carnival-esque musical backing. The music builds in intensity, playing over and over as the narrator's fear upon hearing the footsteps of a stranger increases. FREAKS is an altogether disquieting album that moved Pulp into the realms of the Goth movement.
Q (9/02, p.128) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...Deliciously distrubing stuff..."
Uncut (magazine) (p.105) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "This is the sound of a band coming together, Doyle's organ transforming the mood, while the lyrical themes have got darker, smarter, Pulp-ier."