POP WILL EAT ITSELF Anti Nasty League
Album two of the second phase of the vastly reconfigured Pop Will Eat Itself.. and second albums are notoriously difficult. Is this the same band? (No) Is it any good? (Mostly). Would you recognise this as the band that made 1989's “This Is The Day”. (No.). Continuing the baton laid by the 1994 “Dos Dedos Mis Amigos”, and followed through by 2011's controversial “New Noise Designed By A Sadist”, this, self-released, self-made, self-everything shows Pop Will Eat Itself are 100% independent without a second of debate.
The new lineup, made of sole remaining member Graham Crabb, and the new recruits in Mary Byker, Tim Muddiman, Jason Bowld, and Davey Bennett look act, and sound like a Pop Will Eat Itself (but as the cliché goes), but is it PWEI? Well... clearly, this is Crabb's ship, and on the basis of listening to the record alone, I'm not sure some of the members contributed anything audible – the rhythms sounds very mechanic in production, and not like a live human drummer. Of course, Bowld is a human drum machine, but I'm not sure I can hear him.Davey Bennett on bass might be on this, but again, I'm not sure -there's bass certainly, but it sounds like a sequencer more than a human. The most obvious human input aside from Crabb is Mary Byker, who vocally struts and spars with Crabb in the double-head-vocal approach PWEI perfected in their initial run.
What “Anti Nasty League” does do, clearly and obviously, is eschew any established route : it's a self-created universe, and unlike the vast majority of modern music, it's about something. The words matter, and here Crabb + Co. are declaring war on the mediocre and selfish nature of modern society, from the opening 1-2 punch of “21st Century English Civil War” and “They Can't Take What You Won't Let Them Have.”, born in the lasting and permanent resentment created by the impossible dream that You Can Be What You Want To Be.. But Only if You Work Even Harder. The eternal carrot of security versus the vicious stick of austerity. Humans pitted against each other in infinite war for supremacy of basic needs whilst the incredibly prosperous laugh at those of us in ordinary lives.
That's what this world needs – and hasn't got. A compelling, articulate, voice in music, film, art, that thoroughly exposes and humiliates the cruelty of modern society. This is part of the resistance : and it is embarrassing to the younger generation who - in popular culture at least - seem to have no valid voice to challenge the status quo. Art should confront, not comfort.
No matter how good this, it lacks a certain spark : the lively and powerful sense of blood running through the veins, the sense – intangible – of people in a room making this noise together. It sounds, well, a little bit of a home-studio creation, made seperately and skilfully stitched into a whole. The humour. I miss the pop-culture references, and sense of playfulness that characterised their earlier records. This new version of Pop Will Eat Itself are very very good, but they are a bit dour, a bit too serious. And some of them – namely “Angry Man's Deathbed” - don't really seem like live classics. Late runner “Watch The Bitch Blow” is the best of the bunch, sounding like a bunch of guys in a room making a racket, reminiscent of the best moments of their later, heavier original incarnation, around 1994-1996.
They're not bad, at all, but would be seen as the not the best album of the classic era – and there's the rub. No band can escape it's past and sometimes what was eclipses what is. In this case, it's by no means, the best Pop Will Eat Itself album at all, but a solid late-era contribution. But would I become a fan if I heard this? Would I love this? Probably not. Good, not great.
Still knocks the living shit out of certain other bands, though.