Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pop Group at the Bowery Ballroom

Mark Stewart
Disenchanted with the increasing conservatism of the punk movement in 1977, five teenagers formed the post-punk Pop Group in Bristol, England. Determined not to copy the trimmed-down garage punk sound of the time, the Pop Group drew on an eclectic range of influences from free jazz, funk, dub and avant-garde experimentalism, with socially conscious, politically-charged lyrics and literary influences. The Pop Group released two studio albums before disbanding in 1981. In 2010, three founding members, vocalist Mark Stewart, guitarist Gareth Sager, and drummer Bruce Smith, regrouped with later bassist Dan Catsis and added second guitarist Alexi Shrimpton. The Pop Group released its first studio album in 35 years, Citizen Zombie, on February 23, 2015.

At the Pop Group's comeback appearance at the Bowery Ballroom tonight, the set list was divided fairly evenly between old and new songs. Faithful to the band's original sound, the Pop Group performed lengthy songs which spun on funk/dub beats and somewhat noisy guitar riffs while Stewart shouted, grunted and shrieked. The band opened with its two strongest songs, "We Are All Prostitutes," and the new "Citizen Zombie." The sound often went from propulsive funk grooves to aggressive free jazz. The experimental nature of the compositions was often engaging but often abrasive to the ears. The Pop Group offered an interesting soundtrack to our chaotic times, but the band's anarchic sound will have to win over new fans one at a time.

Visit Pop Group at www.thepopgroup.net.