Before it was ever labeled anything (aside from troubling perhaps), post-punk was bridging the adding to the sound of punk bands such as the Ramones and the Sex Pistols by bringing in the influence of reggae, free jazz and just plain experimentation. In the same family of bands such as Mark E Smith’s Fall is The Pop Group. A screeching explosion of howls driven by a deep underground bass, their music is as confrontational as it is melodic. With Gareth Sager’s over-strung guitars accompanying Mark Stewart’s strained vocals, the band sounds like a nervous breakdown with a beat that you can dance to.
Listen to The Pop Group’s ’79 single ‘She Is Beyond Good and Evil’ and you can hear the echoes of the oncoming Manchester Sound, hip-hop and even a bit of trance… a steady drunken locomotive powered by a near-infantile rhythm and boundless energy. The band itself did not last long, but one of their more memorable releases remains a split single with the Slits.
Former lead singer Mark Stewart is still very productive and has worked with several well known pop idols such as Trent Reznor. Stewart has continued to embrace reggae and jazz in his music as Mark Stewart & The Maffia and under his own name. Gareth Sager went on after The Pop Group, to perform in Rip Rig + Panic with Neneh Cherry and later released excellent The Last Second Of Normal Time on Creeping Bent. He has also worked with the undefinable Jock Scot.
‘She is Beyond Good and Evil’
Mark Stewart/Pop Group Documentary trailer
The film On/Off – Mark Stewart – from The Pop Group to the Maffia will be released on DVD Spring 2010.