appraisal of 'next year's thing'
by Paul Morley
The Pop Group
Linton Kwesi Johnson
ELECTRIC BALLROOM, LONDON
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?
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.
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.
however, dissents sternly, professing dislike for -- among other
things -- their apparently crude teutonic-terrorist tension. Chic
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.
won for me on the night, but it wasn't a battle.
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?
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.
Maybe it was
just the over-excitement.
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.
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
They are worthy
of support; this goes without saying. The theory stands firm,
experience grows. But even now their lyrics begin to come into