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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STUNNING, 12 Mar. 2002
kaysixone (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Y (Audio CD)
The Pop Group started in late 1970's Bristol, inspired by the Sex Pistols but already looking way beyond punk to see how far their imaginations could take them. Produced by dub master Dennis Bovell (also responsible for producing the Slits' first album around the same time) and featuring a young Mark Springer on piano, "Y" fuses together elements from rock, reggae, dub, funk, jazz and who knows what else with bleakly poetic lyrics (and plenty of primal screaming) from vocalist Mark Stewart.

The first track on my cd copy is actually their first single "She is beyond good and evil" which caused quite a stir at the time but sounds comparatively lightweight next to the album proper, which begins with "Thief of fire". Bovell's production is crucial. As well as harnessing the band's raw energy and ensuring that their predilection for extremes of volume and pitch never spirals out of control, he makes the whole thing sound like it was recorded in some sort of primordial echo chamber. "Snowgirl" is probably the most successful track, with its haunting theme and chaotic semi-improvised sequences seamlessly disintegrating into moments of quiet beauty; but it's all compelling, if uneasy listening.
The original lp includes a large poster featuring a collage of images indicating the band's moral and ideological concerns, but it's the music which did the talking on this album. Unfortunately they never managed to recapture that initial spark on their few subsequent releases where the music became a vehicle for their often tedious political sloganeering (mind you, their manic single "We are all prostitutes" is also a personal favourite).

Of course the various members of the Pop Group went on to form a multitude of other, generally more lightweight groups like Pigbag, Maximum Joy, Rip Rig & Panic (featuring a young Neneh Cherry) etc. Stewart bucked this trend by continuing his journey into paranoia, despair and torment with albums like "Learning to cope with cowardice" (an excellent sequel to "Y"). Their experiments also influenced a new generation of Bristol musicians (Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead etc) but you'll never hear anything that sounds quite like this.
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Y by The Pop Group (Audio CD - 1996)
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