The Pop Group
|The Pop Group|
|Genres||Post-punk, avant-garde, funk, experimental rock|
|Years active||1977–1981, 2010–present|
|Labels||Rough Trade, Radar Records|
|Associated acts||The Slits, New Age Steppers, Maximum Joy, Rip Rig + Panic, Pigbag, Mark Stewart + Maffia |
|Past members||Simon Underwood
Origins and early recordings
The Pop Group was formed in 1977 by teenagers Mark Stewart (lyrics, vocals), John Waddington (guitar), Gareth Sager (guitar), Simon Underwood (bass) and Bruce Smith (drums, percussion). Soon after forming, the group began to gain notoriety for their incendiary live performances and were subsequently signed to Radar Records. They issued their debut single, "She Is Beyond Good and Evil", in March 1979. Their debut album, Y, was produced by Dennis Bovell to critical acclaim but low sales figures. Although it did not chart, the album's success was sufficient to convince Rough Trade to sign the band, but not before more line-up changes, with Dan Catsis replacing Underwood on bass.
The band's career with Rough Trade commenced with what is possibly their best-known single, "We Are All Prostitutes", which features a guest appearance by free improviser Tristan Honsinger on cello. This was followed by the release of their second album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? in 1980, which includes a contribution from US proto-rappers the Last Poets. Shortly afterwards the Pop Group released a split single, "Where There's a Will...", with the Slits, a band with whom they now shared a drummer (Bruce Smith) and managers (Christine Robertson and Dick O'Dell), as well as a growing interest in exploring musical genres such as dub and funk rhythms. The band split in 1981, after legal wranglings and internal disagreements. Members of the group went on to join bands including Pigbag, Maximum Joy, Head, the Slits and Rip Rig + Panic, the latter notable for the involvement of Neneh Cherry. Stewart collaborated with the On-U Sound posse, issuing records firstly as Mark Stewart and Maffia, then as a solo artist.
It was reported on 24 May 2010 that the Pop Group would be reuniting and touring, with three of the original five members returning.  The band issued a statement explaining the reunion, saying, "there was a lot left undone,....we were so young and volatile....let's face it, things are probably even more fucked now than they were in the early 80's.....and we are even more fucked off!" In a 2010 interview, Stewart said that the reformed Pop Group was recording a new album, to be titled The Alternate. However, this album never materialized.
The Pop Group's 1980 LP We Are Time saw its first reissue worldwide (ex. Japan) on October 20, 2014. The band also released a compilation of rarities titled Cabinet of Curiosities. In support of the reissues the band undertook a 7 day UK tour starting on October 20 in Edinburgh and ending on October 26 at the Islington Assembly Hall in London. On February 23, 2015, the Pop Group released Citizen Zombie, their first studio album in 35 years.
Style and influence
The group's polymorphous post-punk aesthetic has been described as an "aggressive fusion of funk, noise, dub, free jazz, proto-punk, [and] post-beat poetics." Theorist Mark Fisher describes their sound as "both carvernous and propulsive, ultra-abstract yet driven by dance music’s physical imperatives" Stewart's fevered lyricism took influence from the leftist avant-garde, existential philosophy, and agit-prop sloganeering.
The Pop Group are often considered "pioneers of the late-’70s and early-’80s post-punk scene." They have been cited as an influence in the development of alternative music in the 1980s; Nick Cave of The Birthday Party, Mike Watt of Minutemen, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth have cited the Pop Group as an important source of inspiration on their own work.
- Studio albums
- Y (1979, Radar Records)
- For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980, Rough Trade Records)
- Citizen Zombie (2015, Freaks R Us)
- "Related: Associated With". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
- "The Pop Group: The Oral History of the Post-Punk Pioneers - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
- "Update: The Pop Group Reform". Clash. 12 July 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
- Ryan, Kyle (24 May 2010). "Update: The Pop Group to reunite | Music | Newswire". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
- Dougan, John. "Artist Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 757–758. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- "Update: The Pop Group to reunite". The A.V. Club. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
- "Premiere: The Pop Group - "Citizen Zombie"". NOISEY. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- O'Hagan, Sean (September 14, 2010). "The Pop Group: Still Blazing a Trail That Makes Rock Look Conservative". The Guardian. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
- "The Pop Group Are Back and Fighting Against the "Warm Bath of Apathy"". NOISEY. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
- Official website
- Trailer for the Pop Group/Mark Stewart documentary
- Fan site
- Review of Y on HeadHeritage, Julian Cope's site