The Pop Group – Y (Rhino) 1979


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Now I am one for a fad. Electroclash? Yep I’ not embarrassed to say I bought Fischer Spooner. Post Punk Re-Dux? Dude I was all over it like a rash. I just couldn’t get enough Rapture, Rogers Sisters or Radio 4 (actually Radio 4 sucked, but you know,  I bought it, and …. well …… that one I am actually embarrassed about). Gang of Four, Wire and the Pop Group were referred to in every single fucking review of the time. Now I know my Gang of Four quite well and Entertainment is great. Everybody knows that. Wire? Love nearly everything they did. Pop Group? Yep, they were great. Well I’m sure they were great because they were mentioned in the same breath as Gang of Four. And of course Gang of Four are great. The problem is I had never actually heard The Pop Group. Both of their albums had been out of print for some time. When the nice people at Rough Trade released their Post Punk compilation I lined up for it because of the inclusion of the Pop Group’s “We are all Prostitutes“. Now that song was bound to be great because it has a title that just sounds like the song should be great. An imagination capturing song title if you like.  Now let me commit heresy here. “We are all Prostitutes” sucks. In fact the song is so very-not-great that I sold the stinking compilation on ebay shortly thereafter.  And that, gentle reader of this blog, is where I left the Pop Group.

Fast forward three years and I noticed a couple of months ago that Y had been re-released. Y had been an extremely expensive Japanese import for some time and no other bastard record company had bothered to keep it in print. I mentioned it’s rerelease to a friend. The conversation occurred thusly;

Me: Doc they’ve re-released Y.

Doc: That’s a good record.

Me:  We are all Prostitutes sucked.

Doc: Y is better. It’s before they did all that political bullshit.

Now that was good enough for me. This is the man who introduced me to Richard Hell, Lyres, Flipper, Josef K, Mission of Burma, Crime, Chrome Cranks, Lord High Fixers, Jack O Fire  and others too numerous to mention. And despite his slavish love for the The Fall, the man certainly has taste.

So I bought it, listened to it several times, and came to this conclusion:

Me: They sound like the Birthday Party.

Doc: Nah. They came from a funk angle, Birthday Party came from a rock angle.

Me: Yeah but he yelps like a young Nick Cave but you know less Goth.

Doc: Nah.

Doc was right though. Y has that whole reggae infused punk thing going on. But rather than ham it up like the Clash they made it the underpinning for their angular taut punk poetry. The thing I wasn’t expecting was the jazz seeping throughout some of the tracks (jazz as in Zorn not Monk). Now any band who manage to fuse punk with jazz are fucking clever. To actually make it work is genius. To then make it work by funking it up at the same time makes Y a very special record indeed. If you are reading this then you should probably buy it. Quickly, before the record company bastards delete it again.

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4 Responses to “The Pop Group – Y (Rhino) 1979”

  1. Hah, there aren’t some half smart cheeky bastards in this world are there.
    Yeah thats a fairly accurate record of the conversation & I stand by it.
    Its a great record because its fearless, because it captures a vision not an imitation or pastiche, because its like very little else around then or now, because you need it if for no other reason than to make you uncomfortable & remind you that you are alive. Do yourself a favour.
    And while you are at it get all those Fall lps missing from you collection.

  2. This from a Fall fan (bradx) on the Unofficial Fall Forum where the Pop Group & other things get discussed fromtime to time –
    “Its a pretty harsh listen. Its not proper songs or anything really. The mix is incredible. Probably one of the 2 or 3 greatest visonary mixes of the last 30 years. Its determindedly difficult and will exasperate, as they rarely fix on one riff or phrase long enough for you to think ”oh, yeah, now i get it, its really good”. Its continually shifting and moving into new sonic areas. It makes most music sound unambitious and flat. If its got the single on then that makes it a bit easier. Having said all that – they knew exactly what they were doing on the album, nothing was left to chance…although ”this is the age of chance” of course…which is where AoC got their name from”

  3. Have you read the Simon Reynolds book Rip It Up & Start Again – there’s a decent bit there about the Pop Group – other group whose sum were greater than than their parts. The parts going on to Rip Rig & Panic, Mark Stewart & the Mafia, Maximum Joy & Pigbag plus a few other bits that escape me at this time of night – hey your turn for a bit of effort go google, I’m outta here.

  4. ThiefOfFire Says:

    Political bullshit? Excuse me! Y by The Pop Group has political written all over it, and done in such a smart, still (very) relevant way, that it completely outdoes any Clash effort of the time (IMO).

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