(Planet Me)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
POP WILL EAT ITSELF (V2.0) - Wolverhampton Slade Rooms - 16 March 2012

It's a long strange journey to today. Twenty years after I first saw a band called Pop Will Eat Itself, and fifteen years after they first split, a band called Pop Will Eat Itself are back on tour. Reborn, reconfigured, reformed, it's a Pop Will Eat Itself. Not THE Pop Will Eat Itself.

Certainly, it's not the band I saw in 1996. This lineup, made of Graham Crabb (PWEI 1986-1995), Mary Byker (Apollo 440, Gay Bykers On Acid), Jason Bowld (Pitchshifter, Bullet For My Valentine, Bill Bailey), Tim Muddiman (Gary Numan, Curve), and a bloke whose name I can't remember on bass, it's not so much a band but a finely honed musical machine made of individually talented components. There's no doubting – and there never was – that this is a band, and one that, to quote Axl Rose, plays the fuck out of these songs. But is it Pop Will Eat Itself?

Aye, there's the rub. It's the wrong name for this band. If you go expecting Clint, Rich, Adam, and Fuzz, you'll be disappointed. If you were the type to think of a band as being a combination of people with a shared history and not a brand name, you'll be disappointed. If you think of this band as being the best Pop Will Eat Itself covers/tribute act, and as the name for Graham Crabb's new musical adventure, then you'll be happy. If you think of this as a way of hearing songs that you love live again, then you'll be happy. Is everybody happy? It's not the Pop Will Eat Itself. It's not even a lineage of members from one lineup to another. Of the last lineup I saw in 1996 – Clint, Rich, Adam, Fuzz and The Buzzard, then this band contains 0% of that band. How can this band, and that band, have the same name? This kind of fractured identity is the type of stuff that bands like Great White, LA Guns, and other glam metal losers of 1983 should be fighting about. Not Pop Will Eat Itself.


Other bands that revolved around one core member – The Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, The Sisters Of Mercy – were ones that did so with a frequent rotation back then as well. Not a complete reinvention of members twenty five years in. So to call it Pop Will Eat Itself – especially when three years ago 60% of PWEI were touring as the VileEvils and now 20% of PWEI are touring as Pop Will Eat Itself – is a leap of faith that could hurt the band. It's the wrong name for the right band.

But, if you'd never seen Pop Will Eat Itself before, then this band is an authentic reproduction of the feeling. But it's not the same. It's like going back to someone who reminds you a lot of your best girlfriend when you were eighteen, but not quite as an amazing. Certainly, if you listen carefully, it's not quite the same : but a lot of work has occurred to make it as close as earth and samplers will allow. At times – when Jason Bowld plays drums over a recording of the original studio loops (“Dance Of The Mad”), and the songs are tuned down (“Wise Up!”), or where the lyrics are all over the place and the sound bludgeoned by extra guitar – the gap between then and now can never be closed. It's damn close, but it's not quite the same. Sometimes, there are people convinced their wives have been replaced by near-identical alien clones, and this is exactly the same feeling I get tonight.

I would've crossed the country to see the original 2005 reformation tour (and I did). It was stellar : one of the few reformation gigs which was better than the original shows. This band, spirited and raucous as they are, are half that. The recycling of the name has been cynical and controversial. No one has wanted this band to fail : more that the use of another band's name is possibly not the right decision.


Pop Will Eat Itself is just the name for the new band formed by Graham Crabb, who play a lot of old PWEI songs. As Clint can't play with PWEI – due to being a quite in-demand film composer – Mary is a perfect alternative. Mary acquits himself like he has always been here. A foil to Crabbi, the two bounce off each other like the old and irreverant wardogs they probably are. Jason Bowld is one of the few men on the planet capable of filling Fuzz Townsend's big boots. If you're going to fill the vacant stool of the second best living drummer I've seen, you might as well choose one of the top five drummers there are. Jason plays with a fluency and a style of his own that replaces Fuzz's swing and inflections with a playful bounce all of his own. A fine choice.

In the pit, there are few complaints. Certainly livelier than the final shows of their original lifespan, this may be in part due to the determindedly nostalgic setlist aimed at smashes, thrashes and hits. Six songs from the new record are played in a 21 song set.The set is weighted towards the heavier end of the PWEI ouevre : to the untrained ear the new songs may be much of a muchness, but also, there's a logical progression from the heavier end of the final album to a faster, livelier sound that is both obviously PWEI – but not so. Most of the new stuff is revamped songs originally performed by Graham, Adam, and Fuzz in VileEvils : and with half of VileEvils in the audience watching songs like “Nosebleeder Turbo” that they birthed, it is weird to see the new PWEI perform “new” songs that were originally written by another band. On the other hand, this band are PWEI v2.0 and, if someone wants to carry the mantle of that material to the future and play live, it's a more than suitable lineup to keep the band name and ethos alive in the absence of the original band. This band may not be THE Pop Will Eat Itself, but they are A Pop Will Eat Itself, and the best PWEI tribute band in the world. May they continue unabated for long to come.


PWEI Vs The Moral Majority
Back To Business
Dance Of The Mad Bastards
Chaos + Mayhem
Everything's Cool
Wasted 2
Preaching To The Perverted
Get The Girl + Kill The Baddies
Seek And Destroy
Def Con One
Can U Dig It
Captain Plastic
Kick To Kill
Old Skool Cool
No Love
Nosebleeder Turbo TV
Their Law
Wise Up! Sucker


You seem content enough to accept that Miles Hunt and some girl who was just out of nappies when the band was in their prime can be "The Wonder Stuff" as opposed to a Stuffies cover band, so why not PWEI?
Loads of reasons. The main one is that for The Wonder Stuff, and a lot of other bands such as The Cure, the change of members has been gradual and the band has always remained busy : so over 25-30 years a rotation of members is expected - with PWEI, it's a case of the band having the same core lineup for twenty years, going away for six years, and coming back with only one member... the member who quit a year before the band actually split up. It's similar, to Take That reforming and only having Robbie Williams in them!
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