FAME Review: The Pop Group - We are Time
The Pop Group - We are Time

We are Time

The Pop Group

Available from The Pop Group's online store.

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

Cross Pere Ubu with The Replacements and The Stooges, and you have The Pop Group, a klatch of arty bastards who abided by none of the day's standards or conventions, instead composing and playing as they damn well pleased in the late 70s, and thus were way the fuck ahead of their time…and still are, hence this re-release of material in the hope mankind has evolved sufficiently…to which I can only say 'Klaatu barada nikto!!', which, translated from Pleaidean, means "Oh hell no! Are you effin' kidding me, Earthman? Get real, f'chrissakes!" We are Time is a bizarre but well-cohered exposition of 10 excursions into chaos chronicling what guitarist Gareth Sager calls the band's 'teenage album', even though it was the last of the ensemble's trio of releases on the Radar and Rough Trade labels.

Sorry, Gare, but I disagree. This is way beyond what most teenagers are capable of being able to think up, let alone play or even listen to (though it's obvious cats like Jon Spencer and Mike Patton did) and, thus, none of the band's albums sold terribly well, instead serving as an important axis in showering inspiration down on formative talents: Mike Watt, Nick Cave, etc. In turn, it's pretty obvious The Pop Group was influenced by the genius of Frank Zappa and Capt. Beefheart as well as DaDa, the avant-garde, noise musics, and funk-jazz, among a plethora of styles. Everything was grist for the mill, and the re-release of this and a companion gatherum disc, Cabinet of Curiosities (here), is along the line of revelation and re-establishment.

Don't ask for a favorite track, I can't pick one. Instead, I'm citing this CD as one of the year's best (re-)releases. It's the kind of album that creates an entire experience rather than standing as a collection of chartbound stabs at whatever's supposed to reflect the monkeymass' bizarre tastes. If you find yourself comparing it to the old RIO crowd, don't be surprised, as The Pop Group was art-politically motivated as an existential statement, a howl of rage against social events occurring back then…and more than a little impatient with a punk movement that had already become much too self-satisfied (and in fact started out that way).

We are Time isn't just a really goddamned good album, it's a work of highly dissident art connecting brain with viscera, sharing much with the most intelligent musics of the 20th century. If you doubt, listen to Butch Morris, Henry Cow, Art Zoyd, King Crimson (Groon, etc.) and so on. The Pop Group was more than aware of its surroundings, having gotten caught up in Roxy Music, Steve Reich, aleatoric musics, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, and a wealth of the creativity floating around at the time. Thank all the mad gods and dakinis of art and technology that work like this can be rescued from oblivion and dragged forward to a later date and a hopefully more advanced set of cultures. I'm not betting the rent on that last part, though. This is, after all, Earth.

Track List:

  • Trap
  • Thief of Fire
  • Genius or Lunatic
  • Colour Blind
  • Spanish Inquisition
  • Kiss the Book
  • Amnesty Report (Catsis / Sager / Smith / Stewart / Waddington)
  • Springer (Mark Springer)
  • Sense of Purpose
  • We Are Time
All songs by Sager / Smith / Stewart / Underwood / Waddington except as noted.

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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