FAME Review: The Pop Group - Cabinet of Curiosities
The Pop Group - Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinet of Curiosities

The Pop Group

Available from The Pop Group's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

The Pop Group was one of the most neglected punk-post-punk art-damage bands of the late 70s / early 80s, and it's well past time the ensemble was made revenant. Thus, this new gatherum of otherwise uncollected songs, along with the re-release of We are Time (here), is not just a second chance but an important event…unless you're a Margaret Thatcher type or some other brand of asshole (in which case: go fuck yourself). Cabinet is a good deal more sonically articulated than Time, attributable, I'm guessing, to access to better equipment and such: Roxy Music's Andy MacKay produced the She is Beyond Good and Evil version here, and two cuts emerged from John Peel sessions. This is both a good thing and a trifle wanting, as Time is a glorious mess, pounding against the walls, tearing out the shingles, warping the joists while Cabinet is, in comparison, almost mannered (!!!) though still wild enough.

Cabinet cleaves more to Pere Ubu studio manifestations, obviously taken from Pop Group live gig soundboards and well mixed, dark but simultaneously bright and clear. The Patty Smith and the Magazine / Buzzcocks / Devoto influences are much more evident here because of that, as are guitarist Gareth Sager's Bill Harkleroad (Capt. Beefheart band) antecedents, shining out in more linear format. Amnesty Report III is the most experimental track and the most chaotic, at times almost as if ripped from an old Eric Salzman gig.

I recommend this CD but with a proviso: get ahold of We are Time first, as that disc is ferocious, showing more fully what these guys were about in their prime, a dazzling showcase of a music mode rarely heard. Once that's experienced, Cabinet is better understood. Of course, on the other hand, you might not be the type who likes typhoons, earthquakes, electrical storms, and escaped asylum inmates whirling through your music diet in the manner I do, so, in that case, most definitely get this disc first. On the third hand, if you're already a fan of this unique combo, then Cabinet is exactly what it proclaims: a collection of unusual rare bits finally brought together for the idolater, the ravening fanatic, the glowing collector, and the twisted connoisseur. You can't, after all, listen to The Pop Group and be normal. It just won't go.

Track List:

  • Where There's a Will (Remastered Single 1980)
  • She Is Beyond Good and Evil (Alternative [Original] Version, previously unreleased)
  • Colour Blind (Live Brussels 1978)
  • Words Disobey Me (BBC John Peel Session 1978)
  • Don't Sell Your Dreams (Live Bristol 1978)
  • We Are Time (BBC John Peel Session 1978)
  • Abstract Heart (Live Brussels 1978, previously unreleased)
  • Amnesty Report III (Alternative Mix of 1979 Single)
  • Karen's Car (Live Helsinki 1980, previously unreleased)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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