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NME; 21Oct1978
An appraisal of 'next year's thing'
by Paul Morley

The Pop Group
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Cabaret Voltaire


THE POP GROUP played out their Big London Gig in aid of Amnesty, and invited three of their favourite entertainers to join them. Hence the good looking bill. But don't be deceived... don't jump too quickly. The whole evening didn't have as much variety as a good ATV performance...

It was still attractive. Cabaret Voltaire slid in first -- a trio (using guitars, bass, vocals, electronics, drum machines, clarinet, etc) producing seducing 'pop' electronic noises. Another vague example of young musicians using rock to close the schism between the avant garde and the public?

They're a ripple on the parameters of late '60s German ideas, which in turn were fragments of experiments by mid-20th Century classical composers. Voltaire's addition to this line are minimal and awkward. But it is in rock!

A good excuse, hey? Cabaret Voltaire are probably very accessible. There is nothing which is particularly outrageous in their music's texture and shape, nothing disconcerting in the way they present it, but it will sound peculiar to lazy listeners.

It's very easy to sharply put them down as being "too clever", which is absurd. Only the group's harsh vocal stylisation, contrived aural disorientation and stiffly antagonistic words detract from a certain quaintness.

I find them unremittingly endearing, their decomposed muzak a cheering warped antithesis to Abba's composed bac-zak.

A colleague, however, dissents sternly, professing dislike for -- among other things -- their apparently crude teutonic-terrorist tension. Chic or what?

How Cabaret Voltaire develop depends on their ability to relax, to bust out of their own already considerable myth and reject what is for them the obvious.

Voltaire still won for me on the night, but it wasn't a battle.

Linton Johnson's words just disappeared into the atmosphere. A need for concentration essentially unrequired by Voltaire disrupted his set for me and many others, but in the spirit of the event his indignation was well received. Y'know?

Nico emerged third. Nico was Nico, empty and serene, singing her songs of defeat and still life. Just the harmonium and her, not so much stark as withered. The 'divine discontent' is long since blurred. But many were caught on her elusive web; she got an encore. Shock! Nico as a next year's big thing?!?

A large turnout acclaimed The Pop Group, who are definitely a next year's thing, if not THE next year's thing. The ironies inherent in the choice of their name are already dwindling.

Their on stage presence was large, and it wasn't just the smart new caressing light show that gave them added dimension. Their set seemed firm and precise... the word is solid.

And safe? Already!

Maybe it was just the over-excitement.

The basis of the irregularities in their distorted, contorted rock music is the relationship between the two guitars. Those who are familiar with Beefheartian logic will not notice anything odd in the arrangement. Spontaneity sparks from the guitar combat, a wildness that drives straight for the throat, but there is little idiosynchracy elsewhere.

The rhythm is staggered and sustained, the vocals confident, the songs insistent and propulsive. A good, full rock machine. (Nothing wrong with that.) Brutal, vital and a little bit quirky. How far can they take it?

They are worthy of support; this goes without saying. The theory stands firm, experience grows. But even now their lyrics begin to come into dispute.......

Paul Morley

Advert in NME for this show.

Thanks to Dave Dursley for the scan.

Press Clippings

The Pop Group