July 15, 1978, by Ian Penman
The Pop Group
COLLEGIATE THEATRE, LONDON
TWO SEEMINGLY unconventional, superficially 'bleak', jagged modern-music
outfits. Both engineer music suggesting radical departure, still
Their chaos is meticulous but there is a common fault: both seem
reluctant to communicate. I refer not to snakeskin-boot 'let's all
stomp' rallying calls, nor to the operation of salivation balloons
just the simple accommodation of song titles.
This Heat dummy and hatch volatile, sly music. They hop rather than
swagger argumentative, tenuously rock-oriented noise. It's
often pure noise, yes (what isn't?) but 'Industrial' only in the
sense that Abba too are 'Industrial'... (both engaged in the manufacture
It's a very angry music, anchored with a superficial reliance on
a more conventional form rock-gloss ("Horizontal Hold")
soon to be severed as the barbed, coughing triptych-sound stabs
into an ebbing, nebulous caution.
Successive grey zones of mechanical, ponderous aggression; aggression
which is detached, drifting, resolute. The three players seem almost
to spite their instruments; performance is both obscured and accentuated
Both This Heat and The Pop Group seem to be in the grip of an almost
Cage-like desire to possess noise, to include EVERYTHING,
all influence into the confluence of performance (aggro-noise therapy?)
The Pop Group are more 'attractive'... they have gelled. Their implementation
of tape, tape machines, hits quicker than This Heat's. Their performance
is more markedly the result of experiment, as opposed to
the experience (which can be embarrassing, can be mesmerising).
The Pop Group are smart. The pre-recorded sound is disconcerting
(that's all we need). Audience reaction runs the gamut, largely
disguising fear (of the unfamiliar, or rather, the familiar rendered
in a disturbing manner).
The two guitarists also structure their interactive playing like
people inside the freedom of Jazz/Experimental music (everyone solos-nobody
solos): abrupt, stammering, caustic, clinging like static on wool
a real cliff-hanger.
As for the singer he is obviously in the throes of a distressing
psychological imbalance, suggesting, along with the two guitarists,
the instructions of a French author for one of his early plays:
"Movements... either heavy or else extremely and incomprehensibly
rapid." Genet never exploited strobe-lighting though...
As for the 'bleak' aspect of it all, well, certainly nobody
smiled all evening. But it cheered me up more than anything 'Fun'-fixated,
to know that there is still hope of genuinely new music.