Showing posts with label pop 1280. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pop 1280. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

video review: 'paradise' by pop. 1280

Again, this review took way too long to get out, but it's finally here. Next up is Santigold and Dori Freeman, so stay tuned!

album review: 'paradise' by pop. 1280

I guarantee the majority of you did not see the review when I covered this band the first time.

And frankly, I'm amazed that in the summer of 2013 and after a random browse through Pitchfork that I decided to cover them, more out of bored curiosity than anything else. And while I haven't really revisited much of that record, I do distinctly remember Pop. 1280 as a weird, twisted, dark little band, driving some surprisingly solid melodies through the noise to create a hollow, rattling somewhat industrial flavour, with lyrics that seemed to alternate between punk railing against the machine and the craven horrors that humanity engaged in to survive. And while I wasn't always wild about frontman Chris Bug's delivery or the haphazard mixing, I did think their sophomore release Imps Of Perversion was a step in the right direction to emphasize the band's strengths that got overshadowed in the rough noisy murk of their debut.

And thus when I heard that their third album had opted for an even bigger, even more electronic-enhanced sound, further polishing and building off of the foundation of their last release, I was definitely interested. So, better late than never, I dug into their third album Paradise - what did I get?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

album review: 'imps of perversion' by pop. 1280

You're all forgiven for not knowing who this band is.

Hell, it wasn't that long ago when I had no idea who this group was. If you're looking for acts flying completely under the radar, Pop. 1280 might just be one of the quintessential examples. Signed to Sacred Bones (an indie label out of, where else, Brooklyn), a criminally underwritten Wikipedia page, and with a reputation for abrasive, grimy gothic noise rock, Pop. 1280 certainly aren't attracting the type of critical buzz that I'd normally pick up upon. The only reason I think The AV Club bothered to review the album is because it's the beginning of August and there's barely anything else coming out until John Mayer and Chris Brown decide to simultaneously ruin the summer in one fell swoop.

So why am I bothering to review Pop. 1280's newest album Imps Of Perversion instead of continuing with my retrospectives of other acts that already came out this year? Two reasons: I still need a bit more time to go through Deerhunter's discography for when I talk about Monomania; and more importantly, the fact that Pop. 1280 describes itself as a 'cyberpunk' act.

This immediately caught my attention, because the whole 'cyberpunk' brand used to be a lot more prevalent in the 80s and 90s, with a unique aesthetic drawn from the goth, punk, and raver scenes. Heavily linked to dystopian fiction, cyberpunk tended to have underlying themes of youth fighting against corrupt institutions of the past, the balance between humanity and technology, corporate capitalism running rampant, the abuse of biotechnology, and a lot of interesting ideas that tended to get buried beneath the bondage leather and the excuse to have fetish models pop up in B-list action movies. The sad fact that outside of some critically acclaimed anime, some solid video games, a few decent table-top RPGs, a couple superb novels (often by William Gibson), and Blade Runner, there's a whole ton of crap in the cyberpunk genre that can't even hope to be intellectually engaging or interesting besides cheap masturbatory thrills. 

And nowhere is this more apparent than in music. Sure, Bowie managed to make a decent pseudo-cyberpunk album in the mid-90s with Outside, and Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero did attempt a more politically charged venture into cyberpunk trends, but most music attempting to tap into 'cyberpunk' culture failed pretty disastrously. The most egregious example was Billy Idol's catastrophic album Cyberpunk, which thoroughly destroyed whatever was left of his career. Having relistened to that album recently - and believe me, it hasn't aged well in the slightest - I think I've managed to pin down why it failed: it only grasped the surface gloss of what cyberpunk was, instead of digging into the meatier ideas beneath it.

And really, when I took a look at Pop. 1280's first album The Horror, I was optimistic. After all, there's plenty of untapped potential in cyberpunk, and if we're looking for a modern generation where cyberpunk might hold some relevance to youth, it's right now. Think about all of the themes I mentioned before and compare them to current trends right now. Double-digit unemployment, corrupt corporate overreach, disaffected youth lacking direction and seeking release however they can, these are real things for my generation, and Pop. 1280 could have made a challenging and essential album to speak to these real problems...

And they didn't do that. Their 2012 album The Horror instead opted to imitate the cheap thrills of the cyberpunk aesthetic and blend them with lyrics cribbed from a bad nu-metal songbook. I will give credit to bassist John Skultrane and Zac Ziemann's drumming for managing to build a firm foundation for the better songs, but there's very little built on top of that foundation that's worth talking about. The guitarwork by Ivan Lip is biting and distorted and occasionally builds up with monstrous energy, but with a lack of a driving tune and little chord variation, I couldn't help but lose interest in the material very quickly. Chris Bug's vocals might strive to imitate early Nick Cave, but lacking the dynamics or the air of menace, he comes across like a post-grunge singer attempting to sound dangerous or scary, neither of which I bought. And not only was the technical songwriting rudimentary at best, the lyrics forsook the more interesting ideas in cyberpunk and opted for cheap, schlocky attempts at scares with little subtlety or pacing. In comparison to anything Nick Cave has done (or The Flaming Lips' similarly titled album The Terror from earlier this year), Pop. 1280 couldn't help but look out of their depth, particularly with the lifeless and flat production work that did nobody any favours.

But that being said, I'm willing to give Pop. 1280 a second chance - debut albums are always tough to get right. So how does their follow-up Imps Of Perversion turn out?

Youtube review after the jump