Posts Tagged ‘The Pop Group’

The Pop Group have collaborated with one of Bristol’s most forward thinking and distinctive visual artists, Max Kelan Pearce, for  the video of their first single Zipperface, taken from their forthcoming new album Honeymoon On Mars. You can watch it below… and yes, we very strongly recommend it.

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

Shot at the Electric Ballroom in November of 1979 when the single was originally released, the previously unseen video was recently unearthed from the attic of video maker Chris Reynolds who explains:

"During my final year at the Film School I had a desire to make film about a Bristol band rather than a London one. A guy I worked with at the Bristol Hippodrome as a stagehand, said I should meet The Pop Group and sorted out a visit to them rehearsing in a studio near St Pauls in Bristol.

"A few months later, following the recording of the single We Are All Prostitutes, myself and Simon Fanthorpe long time buddy and video associate ended up at the Electric Ballroom in Camden to shoot the band live.

"The band were playing a gig with the Gang of Four and the Slits. It was quite simply a wondrous night. We had purloined a couple of black and white Sony Rover half inch video recorders from the London College of Printing and set ourselves up in the auditorium. Simon grabbed a slot near the stage and we turned over. The gig was a belter and all three bands blew us away.

"Editing in the mid to late seventies was as basic, as basic can be. Cuts were made with only a terrible accuracy of 4 frames either side of the frame. We found, that a way round this was to sync the decks up by hand any blindly cut in and out manually. Madness. For this reason the tapes were transferred and I processed them through a Colour Video Synthesiser housed at the college. Basically it was a multilevel keyer that colourised and boosted the rushes.

"We hid in the edit suite all night and after several hours of very risky on the fly cutting created the anarchic collage that you see. Its not neat or clever in fact we pulled the plugs and waggled the video connectors to make the images break up more. Nuts.

"It did the job at the time and was seen as pretty unorthodox then, but it has languished in its box in my attic, lost for over 37 years. A belated reunion last year with Mark found me repeatedly trawling through the waist high junk of my attic without success. But, as is so often the way, a search for a serviceable suitcase had me literally tripping over it. I hope it brings you some pleasure."

A timeless nerve-obliterating insurrection, "We Are All Prostitutes" was released to a climate of political unrest.  On hearing it for the first time Nick Cave commented, "It’s one of those moments when the cogs of your mind shift and your life is going to irreversibly change forever." It was "everything that I thought rock & roll should have…it was violent, paranoid music for a violent, paranoid time."

The Pop Group reissue their vital post-punk statement "We Are All Prostitutes" both digitally and as a limited edition coloured 7" packaged in its original sleeve artwork on Friday 19th February 2016 through Freaks R Us.

Their long out of print second studio album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? is being reissued the same day.

Watch the video here: