PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

The Pop Group: For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?

Harsh, abrasive, uncompromising and wholly unique, the Pop Group's sophomore album is as essential in 2016 as it was in 1980.


The Pop Group

For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?

Label: Freaks R Us
US Release Date: 2016-02-19
UK Release Date: 2016-02-19
Amazon
iTunes

While the Pop Group's moniker was tongue-in-cheek from the word go, the group's 1980 LP For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder took the group's unconventional approach to its logical conclusion. When one listens to it even now, it is no surprise that For How Much Longer ended up as the group's final studio album until their surprise reunion in 2015. The Pop Group had blown past all other post-punk acts and created a genre-defining (and genre-defying) epic, as fearsome and fearless as popular music can be.

Drawing heavily from free jazz, African folk music and funk in addition to their more conventional disco and reggae influences, on For How Much Longer the Pop Group's sonic palette has an incredibly impressive depth. At times, the music is ready for the dancefloor, as in the Afro-funk tinged "Blind Faith", while songs like "There Are No Spectators" wrap dub basslines around harsh, alienating and sparse instrumentation. The one constant is that the rhythms are airtight throughout, with bassist Dan Catsis and drummer Bruce Smith the undeniable stars of the group.

More troublesome are frontman Mark Stewart and saxophonist Gareth Sager, whose contributions practically define "acquired taste" and, depending on whether or not you've acquired that taste, their parts can easily be seen as song-ruining at times. Stewart's vocal style ranges wildly, from a Johnny Rotten-esque sneer ("Feed the Hungry", "Rob a Bank") to unearthly shrieking ("We Are All Prostitutes", "How Much Longer") and a few places in between, never staying in one place long enough for the listener to get accustomed to his current mode. Vocals can make or break albums for many, and anyone who finds the vocals in Primus songs hard to take would be advised to give the Pop Group a wide berth. Les Claypool's shtick, vocally, can be compared to Stewart's style after being watered down to a fraction of its original potency.

Similarly, Sager's saxophone playing, more in tune with the album's free-jazz influences than its funk or dub ones, is most often characterized by abrupt blasts of noise. Sager uses the saxophone as one would a weapon, seeking to destroy melody rather than create -- instrumental track "Communicate" opens with some of the harshest sound one is likely to hear outside of explicitly-designated noise music, and he is no friendlier to the listener anywhere else. If the Pop Group's name were meant to be unironic, Sager could very easily be accused of ruining the album wholesale, but instead his instrumentation serves a very definite purpose; his unmelodic playing ensures that only the truly committed listener bothers to proceed. The grooves are there, and they're some of the best to be found in post-punk, but Sager makes sure the listener has to put in work to get to them.

A lack of willingness to compromise anything for the sake of the listener characterizes every aspect of For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?. Where much of their post-punk contemporaries' music danced around naming names or being too specific with political content, Mark Stewart pulled no punches. The title track's lyrics include the statement that "Nixon and Kissinger should be tried for war crimes" and "Justice" refers explicitly to the killings of activists Blair Peach and Kevin Gately. Ambiguity would have been too safe, too comfortable for the Pop Group.

While it in no way makes for an entirely pleasant listening experience, the Pop Group's daring refusal to bow or conform to any standards of the popular music they named themselves in sarcastic defiance to is impressive and admirable to an extreme. They played by their own rules and created something unlike anything else that could be heard at the time, and now the album has been reissued to a musical climate that has gone three and a half decades without seeing anything else like it.

9

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.