(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #334: The Pop Group

By on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

At TGTF we pride ourselves in specialising in new music, so this addition to our SXSW 2015 coverage is a little left-field. The Pop Group debuted in 1979 and return this year with new material after an incredible 35-year hiatus.

The album is heralded by the release of its title track, ‘Citizen Zombie’, as a single. The song initially sounds like an unlistenable mess of noise, but careful attention reveals its layers; there’s a decent groove hidden in there, a lounge-jazz interlude, and its main hook is a particularly persistent earworm. There’s occasionally even some proper lyrics (“like a bad, bad robot spinning out of control”), which reveal a darkly humourous streak pushing through all the chaos.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrfhR5gIyBc[/youtube]

Ostensibly a post-punk outfit, The Pop Group were inspired by the commercial tail of punk to pursue a more eclectic sound. As contemporaries of The Clash, there’s a definite similarity in the two bands’ sounds – the white-boy funk, the ska influence, the half-spoken, heavily-accented vocals – but The Pop Group are a far more experimental and challenging listen. Perhaps that’s why they don’t share the bigger band’s legendary status of course, but then again there’s always those who prefer to cheer the underdog. The Pop Group are for them. And they’re all still alive, which helps.

As if to prove there’s nothing new under the sun, a quick trip through their back catalogue reveals a sound that at times wouldn’t be out of place being played by a bunch of teenagers from, say, Bristol. ‘Mad Truth’ has Carib-jangle rhythm guitar and a cleanly-plucked, reverbed lead line part that countless indie bands are deploying right now to good effect. But no contemporary band can match the granddads’ irreverent attitude or ability to make you feel very uncomfortable indeed.

They’re embarking on a modest U.S. tour before rocking up at SXSW. Quite how those shows will be received is anyone’s guess. A bunch of grumpy, grey-haired English blokes making a right old racket is surely not what the increasingly touristy SXSW punters have in mind when they buy their tickets. But one thing’s for sure: it’s bound to be very memorable indeed.

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