The Pop Group are a Bristol band formed in 1977. They are one of the pioneers of Post-Punk and Dance-Punk music, combining the energy of Punk with Free Jazz, Funk, Dub, and a distinctly radical and paranoid political stance. Their initial lineup included vocalist Mark Stewart, guitarists John Waddington and Gareth Sager, bassist Simon Underwood, and drummer Bruce Smith. Dan Catsis replaced Underwood on bass for their second album, and their current lineup includes Stewart, Sager, Catsis, and Smith.
They released two albums during their initial run, Y (1979) and For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980) before breaking up in 1981. Mark Stewart went on to be the Trope Maker for Industrial Hip-Hop, and helped a young musical collective called The Wild Bunch - who would soon evolve into Massive Attack and launch the Trip Hop movement of the 90s - get their start. Meanwhile, Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith formed respected Post-Punk band Rip Rig + Panic (best known as an early project of Neneh Cherry), whilst Simon Underwood joined Pigbag in time for them to have a modest UK Dance hit with "Papa's Got a Brand New Pigbag".
They reformed unexpectedly in 2010, releasing a surprise third studio album (and their first in 35 years), Citizen Zombie, in 2015. Their fourth, Honeymoon on Mars, followed in 2016 with production from Y producer Dennis Bovell and The Bomb Squad's Hank Shocklee.
While never commercially successful, they are hugely influential in the more chaotic Alternative music scenes. "We Are All Prostitutes" directly inspired Nick Cave during The Birthday Party's transition from their early New Wave sound, and Y influenced artists such as Nine Inch Nails, Primal Scream, Mike Watt of Minutemen, and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth.
- Y (1979)
- For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980)
- Citizen Zombie (2015)
- Honeymoon on Mars (2016)
We Are All Prostitropes:
- Avant-garde Music: Their music is often abstract, free-form, noisy and dissonant.
- Capitalism Is Bad: A common element in their lyrics. As "We Are All Prostitutes" puts it:Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions
Department stores are our new cathedrals
Our cars are martyrs to the cause
- Careful with That Axe: Many of their songs feature blood-curdling screams from Mark Stewart, usually right at the beginning: "We Are All Prostitutes", "Blind Faith", "Citizen Zombie", "St. Outrageous"... and then there's the Last Note Nightmare ending of "Blood Money": "What does it feel like to kill a MAAAAANNNNN?"
- Dance-Punk: One of the early influences alongside Gang of Four.
- Epic Rocking: "We Are Time" and "Don't Sell Your Dreams" are 6-and-1/2 minutes, and live releases of the former are almost a minute longer.
- Funk: One of the band's most pronounced influences.
- Genre Mashup: Their music is a fusion of Punk Rock, hard funk, dub reggae and free jazz, with bits of West African ritual drum music, surf-pop, Captain Beefheart, early hip-hop and psychedelic noise. In spite of many imitators, it is generally agreed that there has been no-one quite like them since, and they're even harder to categorize after their reformation. Summed up with this image◊.
- Harsh Vocals: Stewart's vocals are sometimes harshly distorted, such as at the start of "Thief of Fire" and "Shadow Child", while sometimes he does that himself by screaming so loud it clips the microphone, like all of "We Are All Prostitutes".
- Intentionally Awkward Title:
- "We Are All Prostitutes".
- For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?
- Large Ham: Mark Stewart, the band's howling frontman who may not even sing a song so much as scream it out into the void. The screams that open many of their songs are Incoming Ham moments followed by him jumping headlong into radical politics or biting the head off of some unwelcome element of modern life.
- Minimalistic Cover Art:
- The cover to the single version of "We Are All Prostitutes" simply has the lyrics printed in white against a flat black background. The title of the song and the line "our children shall rise up against us" are underlined.
- Citizen Zombie's art is flat brown with Lord Kitchener surrounded by the album's title text in bold.
- Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: A typical 7 that doesn't go much lower than 4: bitter and angry jabs at life and politics are their norm.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Their usual sound reaches between 4-6, with "We Are All Prostitutes" emphasizing them at their heaviest and most vicious. Their softer songs drift between 2-3, while the greater increase of distortion in their music after their reformation sometimes pushes them into a 7.
- New Sound Album: Citizen Zombie has more accessible Pop and Soul influences than the records from their initial run, and the production is much thicker and more compressed.
- Nonindicative Name: Their music is about as far from pop as you can get.
- Noise Rock: Much of their music is chaotic, distorted and discordant. If the guitars aren't playing a chord or melody, they're making a wild racket of noise, much like the vocals.
- One-Word Title: "Snowgirl", "Justice", "Trap", "Springer", "Nations", "Echelon", "Zipperface", "Heaven?".
- Post-Punk: One of the Trope Makers, combining the energy of Punk with Jazz, Funk and Dub right ahead of Public Image Ltd. and Gang of Four.
- Protest Song: The band's bread and butter.
- Questioning Title?:
- For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?.
- "Heaven?" from Honeymoon on Mars.
- Reggae: Dub is one of their core influences, particularly in the prominence of the bass and the use of delay. This is probably why they chose Dennis "Blackbeard" Bovell of the British reggae band Matumbi to co-produce two of their albums.
- Religion Rant Song: "The Immaculate Deception" paints Christianity as a tool of oppression and violence rather than anything Christ-like.It's a billion dollar secret
Of the greatest story never told
The last temptation
The greatest fiction ever sold
- Sequel Song: The band have a miniseries in the live tracks "Amnesty Report", "Amnesty Report II" and "Amnesty Report III", though the former is a free-form workout, "III" is simply an alternate mix thereof, and "II" is a more-typical Punk Funk song with no apparent relation to it.
- Silly Love Songs: "She is Beyond Good and Evil". Stewart describes the lyrics as "being about unconditional love as a revolutionary force — where idealism and energy mix poetic, existential, and political yearnings with the romantic idea of passing through nihilism and emerging on the other side with something positive, something beyond."
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Savage Sea", "Age of Miracles" and "Echelon" are softer, piano-led songs.
- Title Track:
- "How Much Longer" is shortened from For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?.
- Played Straight with "Citizen Zombie".