Album Reviews

The Pop Group: For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (Freaks R Us)

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The Pop Group
For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?
Freaks R Us

The initial fuel for England’s punk rock scene had burned out by 1978, but another catalyst for outrage and anger would arrive a year later. Her name was Margaret Thatcher, and her election in May of 1979 would soon fuel an even more intense anger for creative protest and organized artistic rage, one that would not burn out as quickly this time round. The Pop Group, who had shown themselves to be masters of musical agitprop with their stunning debut album Y, were just the men for the job.

For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? is a harsh record, a razor-sharp brutal attack on a society that was becoming more and more oppressive—real or imagined, it doesn’t matter. From the first notes, it’s obvious that the time for peaceful dialogue is over; Mark Stewart rants like a rebel leader with a touch of urban jungle fever.  He is yelling at you because you need to be yelled at—your eyes need to see what is going on around you, and he’s just the man for the job. He’s presenting hard truths, and he’s not dumbing it down or sugar coating it—but neither is disguising his thoughts in vague political/academic/philosophical mumbo-jumbo, either. This is how political messages so often should be done, but aren’t—the most straightforward, basic language that all can understand. (Okay, so sometimes you can’t actually understand what Stewart is saying here, but you get the point, right? Good.)

With his vocal style being what it is, he requires a skilled band to handle his thoughts, and with the rhythm section of bassist Dan Catsis and drummer Bruce Smith, they do an able job of turning his rants into danceable funk and “pop” numbers. “Feed The Hungry,” “Justice” and “Blind Faith” are straight-up dance numbers, with a hint of James Brown and Joe Tex bass lines and contemporary commentary on the state of British politics, of which this American writer must confess that he’s not all that knowledgable about. “Rob A Bank,” the closing number, ditches the funk and goes straight into hardcore punk territory-and it sounds less like a closing number than a call-to-action.

The Pop Group imploded after this, its members moving on to other things. But their political leanings and their blend of harsh funk still ring true today, much truer than the work of contemporaries Gang Of Four, Crass, and The Clash. They reformed a few years ago, and this album shows that those excellent records merely picked up the banner that they left behind in 1980. Harsh, hard, and cacophonous, this is what true agitprop should sound like.

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