22 September, 2012

30 Reviews In 30 Days: Review #21

Pop. 1280, The Horror (Sacred Bones, 2012)

This came out in January and was an early highlight of the year. Pop. 1280's sound - a surprisingly natural amalgam of Chris Bug's theatrically paranoid rockn'roll sneer, Ivan Lip's Birthday Party-worshipping guitar, Cop Shoot Cop bass grinding, monolithic synth lines that call to mind Suicide, Devo and even Cabaret Voltaire occasionally, and stiffly unorthodox, stop and start rhythms that sometimes slightly recall The Scream-era Siouxsie and the Banshees - consolidates itself into a far artier and darker, though not quite as intense or hooky entity on this album. Where their first EP, The Grid, featured some extraordinarily catchy, funny and/or hard-rocking songs on it - "Step Into The Grid," "Redtube" and "Midget" come to mind in particular - the closest thing The Horror has to a song like any of those is a synthesizer-corroded tom-trashing number called "Bodies In The Dunes," which repeats its main theme ad nauseum as Bug talks about seeing dead bodies wrapped head to toe in a sack. The enjoyably campy humor that was such a distinguishing characteristic of the band on The Grid has mostly vanished here, with the exception of the hilariously lockstep dance of "Hang 'em High." And the full-on descents into all-out noise rock hell, as characterized by The Grid's "Data Dump" and the career peak of B-side "Dead Hand," are also mostly not in evidence. What is here, though, is a deeply depressive, clotted, cold sound. It sounds like Pop. 1280 have finally committed fully to the dystopia they'd previously had a sense of humor about before. Most of the instruments are grouped together in the middle of the mix, sounding like one smoggy cloud full of enough nightmares to last you a few weeks. This album is a bleak lump of distemper, and at its' best - "Bodies In The Dunes," the vicious opening one-two punch of "Burn The Worm" and "New Electronix," the organ-driven dirge "Beg Like a Human," the wonderfully driving and pulsing "Crime Time" - it takes the band to coldly hateful places they've never been before. And while I hope that their next album puts together the frigid, creepy artiness on display here with the hooky humor of before and the completely unhinged, brain-frying noise they're eminently capable of, The Horror is a great debut album, which takes many risks with a strongly established sound and mostly succeeds.

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