Niall Mcguirk on The Pop Group‘s Citizen Zombie
So it’s been 35 years. Hard to believe I was 11 when The Pop Group split up. I know time turns memories into stories that may be more alluring than the actual events that happened, but I swear I remember the Pop Group first time around. I loved Gang Of Four, I had that first Au Pairs album that gave a the initial punk funk fusion sound to my ears. It may be described as “post punk” but my post was with the person delivering mail twice a day and it was all punk rock to me. Guitar terrorists like The Clash were mixed with experimental noiseniks like the Pop Group and The Mekons and then more raucous straight forward sounds came into the equation, and got faster. Meanwhile bands like the Pop Group laid foundations for much of the indie pop revolution who took this raw funk punk mix and popped it around. Orange Juice showed how it could be done and many, many others followed.
Of course when you listen to bands like Huggy Bear or Bikini Kill this treble guitar sound is taken to a dimension that leads the grrl revolution, and then there’s DC bands like Nation Of Ulysses who bring their Americanisation to the genre. But I’m sure the Pop Group didn’t care – they were well gone. Mark Stewart had pushed on with his Maffia and was developing the On-U dub sound along with Adrian Sherwood, but he obviously felt he had left something behind…
Now they’ve returned, dubbed and funked up, but still carrying the energy of the late ’70s. It restarted in 2010 when the band got back together and did some gigs. They met up like an international football team, and started producing new sounds. Citizen Zombie has come about as a result of these meetings. 11 tracks with that familiar dub funk jazzed up sound. It’s rushed, it’s sparse – at times it’s toe-tapping good, at others you’re left waiting just like those MTV days, hanging on in case the next song is better.
They are still trying to agitate on the side of the oppressed. The ’70s and ’80s generation have spawned some unfree thinkers as we look around at a zombie nation, but the Pop Group are still trying to say something through their music. On opening the CD a postcard drops out:
“THE EIGHTY-FIVE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD OWN THE SAME WEALTH AS THE 3.5 BILLION POOREST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD”
If only more bands were trying to display these messages today…