The Pop Group – Honeymoon on Mars

Posted: 4 October 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , ,

Freaks R Us – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometime, somewhere, I read an interview with either one of the members of Throbbing Gristle or Suicide, which hours of research have resulted in endless dead-ends, who said words to the effect that it you stick around long enough, even the most outsider bands come to be appreciated and regarded. This was in the years before the pre-reformation age, in which bands who were moderately successful first time around have earned major payola pedalling the nostalgia circuit without feeling the need to flex any kind of creative muscles. Old-school punk bands, 80s pop and 90s indie bands are all guilty of this, and I’ve no time for their nostalgia schtick.

The Pop Group, having called it a day in 1981, didn’t stick around to watch their legacy grow. But in their absence, which lasted until 2010, the retrospective appreciation of their two albums definitely grew and they earned the reputation as a seminal act of the post-punk era, and listening to them now (something that’s altogether easier to do since the recent reissues) it’s not hard to hear why: they still sound radical and far out after all this time. It wasn’t until 2015 that they actually graced us with new material, and Citizen Zombie’s largely positive yet still mixed reviews showed that they remain a band out of time, even in an era when you might think they’ve been assimilated, processed and accommodated.

Remarkably, given that it’s a phase-two difficult second album for a band who formed almost forty years ago, Honeymoon on Mars represents something of a jump for the band, in that it’s even less accessible and, at the same time, even fucking better. The grafting dub/funk grooves which define the band’s sound, and always have, are still present, and Mark Stewart’s vocals are manic as ever: there’s nothing for longstanding fans to worry about there. But the band fully explore their experimental bent here, making for a challenging and, in places, disorientating work, which is uncomfortable, dissonant and often weird. In short, it’s a proper Pop Group album, without a single hint of sell-out.

It opens with ‘Instant Halo’, a track built around stop/start guitars so choppy they could overturn a cruise ship. ‘I’m going on a desperate journey’, Mark Stewart howls spasmodically. ‘Pure Ones’ sounds like a drug-fuelled collaboration between David Bowie and Gang of Four. ‘Days Like These’ is a full-on weird-out, echo-riddled vocals bouncing in all directions over a low, low, trolling dubby bass. ‘Who bought your silence / who enslaved your mind?’ Mark wheezes over a tense groove on the wired early 90’s Fall meets Talking Heads with both on steroids ‘Zipperface’, proving they’ve lost none of their confrontational, socio-political edge.

Observing the grim parallels with England 2016 and England in the early years of Thatcher may not be particularly revelatory, but it’s pertinent: these are dark ties, politically, socially, and culturally, and we are, undoubtedly witnessing the emergence of a true new wave of New Wave (not some pastiche of New Wave as was heralded in the early 90s under the NWONW music-press orchestrated hype). And spearheading this resurgence of bleak music for bleak times, the progenitors of the first movement have suddenly become as relevant as they ever were. And at the front of the line, you’ll find The Pop Group. Honeymoon on Mars is a vital, energetic, splenetic, and essential album of our times.

 

Pop Group - Honeymoon-On-Mars-Cover

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Comments
  1. Curtis Fry says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this review. “Honeymoon On Mars” is essential listening for this generation. The Pop Group deliver a socio-political classic where the funk meets the punk with spunk!

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