Pop Will Eat Itself
(PWEI or The Poppies for short) were an Alternative Rock
/Alternative Dance/Industrial Rock
band from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, active initially from 1986 to 1996. Their sampletastic, hip-hop and electronica-influenced alternative rock style was nicknamed "Grebo" in music magazines like NME
and Melody Maker
, largely from their songs "Oh Grebo I Think I Love You" (from Now for a Feast!
) and "Grebo Guru" (from Box Frenzy
). They're nowadays rather more famous for being the band Clint Mansell
started his career in than their actual music.
The band was first formed in 1981 under the name From Eden, with its members being Clint Mansell, Adam Mole, Chris Fradgley, Malcolm Treece and Miles Hunt, the latter two later becoming famous in their own right in The Wonder Stuff. After Fradgley, Treece and Hunt left, Mansell and Mole brought in Graham Crabb and Richard March as their replacements, and changed their name in 1986, at first to "Wild and Wandering", and then finally setting on "Pop Will Eat Itself", a name they cribbed from an NME
With Clint Mansell on guitars and vocals, Adam Mole on guitars and keyboards, Richard March on bass and Graham Crabb on drums, PWEI initially recorded a series of short, hooky Pop Punk
singles (which were later collected on the compilation Now for a Feast!
), which saw little success despite "Poppies Say Grrr!" being declared "Single of the Week" by NME
. Their debut album Box Frenzy
saw them move away from their purely Pop Punk
sound (while keeping their humorous lyrics), and begin to incorporate drum machines, Sampling
and influences from genres like New Wave Music
, Hip Hop
, and House
. One of the singles from this album, "There's No Love Between Us Anymore", marked their first appearance on the UK singles chart, at #66.
Three important things happened in the process of PWEI recording their follow-up album: Graham Crabb abandoned the drums in favour of vocals and other instruments, being replaced with a drum machine nicknamed "Dr. Nightmare", the band signed a record contract with RCA Records, and they hooked up with Alternative Rock Record Producer
Mark "Flood" Ellis. This Is The Day... This Is The Hour... This Is This!
, released in 1989, saw the band develop its sound further with increased Hip Hop
influences, kaleidoscopic sampling, metal-flavoured Epic Riffing
and more electronic elements, all sharpened by Flood's production, over which Mansell and Crabb barked, Piss Take Rapped
and sang their amusingly silly lyrics like an English Beastie Boys
. Being synchronised with a stream of nationally popular bands that either combined rock with dance music (The Stone Roses
and Happy Mondays
) or bands that had a similar everything-goes
, danceable alt-rock sound as the Poppies (Jesus Jones, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, their Stourbridge comrades The Wonder Stuff, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Diamond Head), This Is The Day...
was greeted with great reviews, went to #24 on the British charts and spawned three successful singles: "Def. Con. One" (a hit on the US Modern Rock charts), "Can U Dig It?" and "Wise Up! Sucker..." (which featured backing vocals from their former bandmate Miles Hunt). Next year's follow-up album, Cure for Sanity
, largely continued in the same style and with Flood behind the mixing boards again, and was similarly well-received.
For their next album, PWEI brought in drummer Robert "Fuzz" Townshend to complement their drum machine rhythms and loops, and moved into a slightly more Darker and Edgier
style with more noticeable Grunge
and Industrial Metal
influences. The Looks or the Lifestyle?
saw the band do even better commercially than before, spawning their highest-charting single "Get the Girl! Kill the Baddies!", but the band ran into trouble with Executive Meddling
, as their greatest supporters in RCA had left the company and the remaining executives didn't understand them or their style. As a result, they were dropped from the label before "Get the Girl! Kill the Baddies!" was released in 1993. They then moved to Infectious Records, a label started by Korda Marshell, their friend who had signed them to RCA but had since left the label. Their next album Dos Dedos Mis Amigos
was even more Industrial Metal
than before, with its lead single "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" being a politicised Protest Song
against attitudes towards immigration and the popularity of the far-right in the UK, with a Surreal Music Video
parodying the industrial scene where March and Mole played comically oversized guitars. Amigos
was the band's best-selling album in the UK at the time (peaking at #11 on the charts), and a joint tour with Nine Inch Nails
increased their popularity and led them to sign a contract with Nothing Records for US distribution. Around the time of the remix album Two Fingers My Friends!
was released, Crabb left the band, leaving Mansell as sole vocalist, and was replaced with Kerry "The Buzzard" Hammond. The band began recording a new album with Trent Reznor as the producer and collaborated with The Prodigy
for "Their Law", but disbanded before they could finish recording. Crabb then pursued his ambient side project Golden Claw Musics, March and Townshend formed the big beat band Bentley Rhythm Ace, and Mansell moved onto his new career of scoring every single Darren Aronofsky
film ever made.
PWEI briefly reunited to play live concerts in 2005-2006, though attempts to record new material failed due to Mansell and March's previous commitments. The band was finally revived in 2010 with an entirely new lineup in which Crabb was the only original member, with Mary Byker
(formerly of Gaye Bykers on Acid), Tim Muddiman, Davey Bennett and Jason Bowld as the new members. This lineup released a new album, New Noise Designed By a Sadist
, in 2011.
- 2000 Light Ales from Home (1986) (released under the name "Wild and Wandering")
- Box Frenzy (1987)
- Now for a Feast! (1988) (compilation of early singles)
- This Is The Day... This Is The Hour... This Is This! (1989)
- Cure for Sanity (1990)
- The Looks or the Lifestyle? (1992)
- Dos Dedos Mis Amigos (1994)
- Two Fingers My Friends! (1995) (remix album)
- New Noise Designed By a Sadist (2011)
Tropes demonstrated by Pop Will Eat Itself:
- Affectionate Parody: The video for "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" is a pretty spot-on joke at the expense of the Industrial Metal scene.
- The Band Minus the Face: Crabb is the only original member left.
- Black Comedy: "Def. Con. One" shows the band regarding impending nuclear destruction as an excuse to buy fast food.
- Boastful Rap: Parodied in "Hit the Hi-Tech Groove", as Mansell is boasting about their lack of musical skills and reliance on stealing from better musicians.
- Breakup Breakout: Mansell, clearly, but arguably also Miles Hunt and Malcolm Treece (as The Wonder Stuff) and Richard March and Robert Townshend (as Bentley Rhythm Ace).
- Cover Version: They covered: "Love Missile F1-11" by Sigue Sigue Sputnik (on Box Frenzy), "Orgone Accumulator" by Hawkwind (on Now for a Feast!), and "Rock-A-Hula-Baby" by Elvis Presley (on The Last Temptation of Elvis).
- Defcon Five: Averted. "Def. Con. One" actually gets the numbering system right, for once.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: The Pop Punk material on Now for a Feast!.
- Epic Rocking: "Wake Up! Time to Die...".
- Foreign Language Title: "Ich Bin Ein Auslander", German for "I am a foreigner" (though it should actually be "ausländer") and Dos Dedos Mis Amigos, Spanish for "Two fingers my friends".
- List Song: The lyrics of "Can U Dig It?" are simply a pretty geeky list of pop-culture things that the band want to recommend to people.
- Miniscule Rocking: All the songs on the Now for a Feast! compilation are about 1-2 minutes long. The longest is only 2:30, and the shortest 0:53.
- Ode to Intoxication: "Wake Up! Time to Die...". The chorus makes it obvious it's not a positive depiction:
Glass jaw, alcohol whore
Cardboard cutout lying on the floor
Lame brains, drunk again
Stupid dumb dumb cold plumb insane
I've felt worse but I felt better
A human see-saw to the letter
It makes me feel so bad
- Punny Name: The band credited all their songs to "Vestan Pance" as a joke, thinking it would be more interesting than the usual "All songs by Pop Will Eat Itself".
- Sampling: Tons of it.
- "Hit the Hi-Tech Groove" samples "Stand and Deliver" by Adam and the Ants, "(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'" by Whistle, the chorus of "Respectable" by Mel & Kim, and "The Jack That House Built" by Jack 'N' Chill.
- "Intergalactic Love Mission" samples "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" by Wham!.
- "Let's Get Ugly" samples "Rock the Bells" by LL Cool J, the extended version of "Peter Gunn" by The Art Of Noise, and "Rockman Rock Parts 2 and 3" by The JAMs.
- "Love Missile F1-11" samples "C'Mon Everybody" and "Something Else" by Eddie Cochran, and The Sex Pistols' cover of "Something Else" as well.
- "There's No Love Between Us Anymore" samples "When I Fall in Love" by Nat King Cole, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers and "It's Yours" by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay.
- "Like an Angel" samples "When I Dream" by The Teardrop Explodes.
- "Can U Dig It?" samples The Twilight Zone's theme song, incidental dialogue from The Warriors, Faith No More's "We Care a Lot" (the rapid guitar stabs), and "Black Is Black" by Belle Epoque (the "We like the music, we like the disco sound, hey!" chant).
- "Def. Con. One" samples The Twilight Zone's theme song, "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas (the snare roll), "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges (the main riff is recognisable in the chorus), "Funky Town" by Lipps Inc. (the famous keyboard riff), "Crazy Horses" by The Osmonds (the horse whinny), "Time to Get Ill" by the Beastie Boys (MCA yelling "What's the time?"), "Right Now" by The Creatures (Siouxsie singing "right now"), "Raising Hell" by Run-D.M.C. (the chants of "to the left, y'all" and "to the right, y'all" in the ending), "Beat Dis" by Bomb the Bass (the main beat), "My Mike Sounds Nice" by Salt-N-Pepa ("Right about now!") and Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" (the first riff heard in the song).
- "Inject Me" samples the beat from "Good Old Music" by Funkadelic and a string part from "As Time Goes By".
- "Poison to the Mind" begins with a sample from a Kellogg's commercial saying "Somewhere in the sprawling metropolis, another job for...".
- "Preaching to the Perverted" samples Prince Buster's "Al Capone", Flavor Flav yelling "Yeah, that's right!" from Public Enemy's "Terminator X Speaks With His Hands", the band's own "Let's Get Ugly", a guitar part from Public Enemy's "Countdown to Armageddon", the drums from "Shake Your Thang" by Salt-N-Pepa and E.U., and a lyric from Eric B. and Rakim's "Microphone Fiend".
- "Radio P.W.E.I." samples "I Can't Live Without My Radio" by LL Cool J, "I Can't Live Without My Radio" by World Domination Enterprises, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" by James Brown, "Fantastic Freaks at the Dixie" by DJ Grand Wizard Theodore and The Fantastic Five, "Two Tribes" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (the main guitar melody), "Shout" by Tears For Fears (Roland Orzabal singing "I'm talkin to you!"), "We Get Ill" by Schoolly D, "Bring the Noise" by Public Enemy, "It Takes Two" by Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, "My Philosophy" by Boogie Down Productions (KRS-One yelling "SUCKAS!") and "Get Stupid (Part III)" by Mantronix.
- "Shortwave Transmission on 'Up to the Minuteman Nine'" samples the band's "Radio P.W.E.I." and the drum machine from "Mama" by Genesis.
- "Sixteen Different Flavours of Hell" recycles vocal samples from "Wise Up! Sucker..." and "She's Surreal".
- "Not Now James, We're Busy..." samples "I Got You (I Feel Good)", "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" and "Funky Drummer" by James Brown, "Christmas Rappin'" by Kurtis Blow, "World Famous" by Malcolm McLaren, and Otis Redding's "Good To Me".
- "Wake Up! Time to Die..." samples Blade Runner, and the drum machine and vocal melody of Renegade Soundwave's "Kray Twins".
- "Touched by the Hand of Cicciolina" samples David Bowie's "Sound and Vision".
- "1000x NO!" samples part of the piano from The Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Take Five".
- "92°F (The 3rd Degree)" samples the drums from Simon & Garfunkel's "Cecilia".
- "Axe of Men" samples the guitar riff from My Bloody Valentine's "Soon".
- "Another Man's Rhubarb" uses some dialogue from the 1989 Batman film.
- "Dance of the Mad Bastards" samples James Brown's "Funky Drummer", The Who's "Helpless Dancer", the band's own "Can U Dig It?", and Marina Van-Rooy's "Sly One".
- "City Zen Radio 1990/2000 FM" samples Age of Chance's "We Got Trouble".
- "Dr. Nightmare's Medication Time" samples "Rock Steady" by Aretha Franklin, "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" by Vaughan Mason and Crew, "Ooh, I Love It (Love Break)" by The Salsoul Orchestra, "Hit It Run" by RunDMC, "Don't Make Me Wait" by Bomb the Bass and "Shake Your Rump" by the Beastie Boys.
- "Nightmare at 20,000ft" samples the eponymous episode of The Twilight Zone and "Shake Your Rump" by the Beastie Boys.
- "Lived in Splendour: Died in Chaos" begins with a sample of the Blade Runner opening theme.
- "Psychosexual" samples Erik Satie's "First Gymnopédie" and the beat of Bobby Byrd's "I Know You Got Soul".
- "Very Metal Noise Pollution" recycles two vocal samples from "Preaching to the Perverted".
- "X Y and Zee" samples "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield, "Slim Jenkins' Place" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s, "The Pusher" by Steppenwolf, "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" by Barry White and "Uptown Top Ranking" by Althea & Donna.
- The beat in "The Beat That Refused to Die" is sampled from This Mortal Coil's cover of "Drugs".
- "Mother" samples "Threatened" by The Stranglers.
- "Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me, Kill Me!" samples "Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)" by Adam and the Ants and "Of Course" by Janes Addiction.
- "Get the Girl! Kill the Baddies!" samples Perry Farrell's scream from "Ocean Size" by Janes Addiction.
- "Harry Dean Stanton" samples "When Love Rules the World" by Simone Angel. It was supposed to also feature samples of Harry Dean Stanton, but they were removed for copyright reasons.
- "I Was a Teenage Grandad" samples "On the Rocks" by INXS.
- "Token Drug Song", "Karmadrome", "I've Always Been A Coward Baby" and "Everything's Cool" feature samples from the AKIRA soundtrack.
- "Gimme Shelter" samples "I Need a Roof" by The Mighty Diamonds.
- "Menofearthereaper" samples "Everybody Wants Some!!" by Van Halen.
- "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" samples part of the guitar riff from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir".
- "Familus Horribilus" samples the acoustic part of Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe".
- "Home" samples "Cargo Culte" and "Melody" from Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson.
- "Everything's Cool", besides its percussion sample from the AKIRA soundtrack, also uses samples from Ministry's "Thieves", a remix of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Kiss Them for Me" and Annie Lennox's "Little Bird".
- So much so that there is a scholarly book on sampling culture called '' Will Pop Eat Itself?'' which discusses their ouevre at length along with other turn-of-the-90s sampling acts. One of the chapters is also titled "Hitting The Hi-Tech Groove (Not Entirely Legally)".
- Self-Deprecation: "Hit the Hi-Tech Groove" sees the band mock their own reliance on sampling, with lyrics like "I don't need to study don't need a degree/I've got advanced criminology!", "We sample, we steal, we beg, we borrow/Here today, and gone tomorrow!" and a chorus of "You don't have to have integrity/You don't have to have ability, yeah/So listen kiddies, it's true what they say/You don't need respectability".
- Shout-Out: Frequently present in their lyrics.
- "Can U Dig It?" is basically just one entire Shout-Out to things the band likes, from AC/DC to V for Vendetta.
- "Def. Con. One"'s chorus includes the lyric "Watchmen, we love you all!"
- "Touched by the Hand of Cicciolina" combines a reference to New Order's "Touched by the Hand of God" (itself a reference to Maradona's "Hand of God" goal in the 1986 World Cup) and Ilona "Cicciolina" Staller, an Italian porn actress who had won election to Parliament in 1987, married at the time to American artist Jeff Koons. (She lost her 1991 re-election bid.)
- "Nightmare at 20,000ft" is named after an episode of The Twilight Zone.
- The "Gonna get the girl, gonna kill the baddies, save the entire planet" chorus of "Get the Girl! Kill the Baddies!" is taken from Total Recall (1990).
- The lyrics of "Pretty Pretty" are taken from Dennis Hopper's dialogue in Blue Velvet.
- Skewed Priorities: "Def. Con. One"
No time to talk, it's DEFCON one!
So gimme Big Mac, fries to go
Gimme Big Mac, fries to go
Gimme Big Mac, fries to go
Gimme Big Mac, gimme fries to go!
- Special Guest: "92°F (The 3rd Degree)" is sung by reggae musician Sylvia Tella.
- Take That: The lyrics of "Candydiosis" mock The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Some Candy Talking" and Hüsker Dü's Candy Apple Grey, with a chorus that asks "What's so fucking good, what's so fucking good about candy?".
- "Not Now James, We're Busy..." is a joke at the expense of James Brown's legal troubles, recorded after he was arrested and imprisoned for a high-speed car chase along the Georgia-South Carolina border in 1988.
- "City Zen Radio 1990/2000 FM" attacks the poll tax that helped drive Margaret Thatcher out of office. ("No ID cards, no poll tax!")
- "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" is a slam against anti-immigration attitudes and the rise of the far-right in the UK.
- "Familus Horribilus" mocks the royal family.