The Pop Group - The Boys Whose Head Exploded - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Pop Group - The Boys Whose Head Exploded

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2016-05-27

For my money, The Pop Group’s Y is one of the great albums to come out of the late 70s British post-punk explosion. 'We Are All Prostitutes' is one of the era's great singles.

What set them apart was not only their furious intensity but their unique brand of avant-punk-funk. Where most bands drew from The Stooges, The Pop Group drew from the avant-garde, radical politics and James Brown. While PiL and Gang of Four later picked up on their formula, The Pop Group were the catalyst, a step ahead, paving the way for the trend.

In terms of political conviction, they made The Sex Pistols and Clash look like tourists. They were a band with a message: "Make the world a better place or we'll continue to make this racket outside your window". Despite their agenda, they had a good beat and you could not only dance but think to it. Their brutal, yet danceable songs railed against Genocide, Poverty, and Inequality.  They implored on behalf of Human Rights with all the gusto of revolutionaries tossing off molotovs in their wake as they stormed the Bastille. Sadly, the band ground to a halt in 1981 a year after their 2nd studio album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?

Front man Mark Stewart and comrades went on to other projects after some bitter legal feuding. Fortunately, they reformed in 2010 and released the relentless Citizen Zombie. The album and live shows, just as fierce as before. Except, as one band member remarked in an interview, “We all play our instruments better.”

During its long haitus, the Pop Group didn’t leave behind much of a back catalogue to repackage. In fact, Y was only available on rare, expensive import for decades. Their 2nd languished out of print until just this year. Outside of a few cuts on the rarities set, Cabinet of Curiosities, little of their live work has been on the market.

Until now.

The Boys Whose Head Exploded, offers a selection from their 1980 European tour. Suffice to say, the Pop Group were just as intense live as they were in the studio. Kicking off with a furious ‘We Are All Prostitutes’, about the only mayhem artists this fearocious were The Birthday Party. While Nick Cave and his cohorts fanned the flames of chaos and teetered on the edge of the abyss, the Pop Group set fire to the abyss and staged a protest amid the flames. If it sounds like it’s all going to fall apart at any moment, the band holds firm with a tight rhythm section, anchoring the antics of Mark Stewart and the Ornette Coleman stylings of guitarist and saxophonist, Gareth Sager.

Most of the selections draw from their 2nd album. ‘Rob A Bank’, ‘Feed The Hungry’, ‘Blind Faith’ and ‘Justice’ just as propulsive and manic as their studio counterparts. ‘There Are No Spectators’ takes no prisoners. ‘Shake The Foundations’ does just that. ‘The Forces of Oppression’ comes on like an onslaught and doesn’t let up. The only time the bands takes it down from the rafters is the broodingly intense screed, ’73 Shadow Street’.

I have a feeling this won't be the last word from this band,. Yet, I have the nagging suspicion this is the only live document of their heyday they have up their sleeves. Get it while supply lasts.




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