If you enjoyed your growth years musically during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, well, finding the great bands that were tucked way down under the shadows of bands that received all of the attention, was quite a challenge, if not impossible. As you climbed into the late ’70s, early ’80s, with many bands being signed to see who would stick, (not to mention the advent of independent labels that were springing up more and more), the proliferation of bands, many of them excellent but unheard, exceeded our attention spans.
One of those bands was a late ’70s, post-punk UK Rock band by the name of The Pop Group. This band was formed in 1977 with five musicians. The Pop Group performed music that took footholds in many styles that included Punk Rock, Jazz, Funk, and the pervading avante-garde style propagated by bands like Talking Heads, Urban Verbs (another story), The Feelies (yet another story), and on and on. The Pop Group were signed to Radar Records, and Rough Trade. With politically charged songs, and their excellent musical style, they should have ascended the charts easily enough. They didn’t. Although they are known by fans, and followers of the politically motivated bands of the time (Clash, Gang of Four, etc), they went relatively unknown by the masses.
Their first album, Y, was released on Radar Records in 1979. It was appreciated by critics but it not chart. For me, that album was valued mostly for the rapturous free-jazz fusion track, “Thief Of Fire”, still one of my favored The Pop Group song. Interestingly, Gareth Sager (guitar) said that they were “trying in an inexplicably naive manner to combine Patti Smith’s Rimbaud ramblings, James Brown, the Stooges, Roxy Music, T. Rex and classical aleatoric music. You can hear the results of this on tracks ‘Genius Or Lunatic’, ‘Colour Blind’, ‘Trap’, ‘Sense Of Purpose’, ‘Kiss The Book’ and ‘We Are Time.” He goes on to say “soon after this the band were bringing in other influences, Ornette Coleman, King Tubby, Funkadelic, Debussy, Jacques Brel, Fela Kuti, Steve Reich and then you get ‘Thief Of Fire’.”
They signed with Rough Trade for their second LP, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder. That album was released in 1980.
In 1981, The Pop Group called it a day, having released only the two studio sets in their original run. In 1980, Rough Trade released a collected set of Pop Group tunes from both their Radar, and Rough Trade issues, also throwing in some live performance tracks, and demos to set it apart. It was called We Are Time.
On October 21, the band, in collaboration with the Freaks R Us label from the UK, will reissue the We Are Time collection with new remastering of the songs, as well as a newly assembled collection of rarities, Cabinet Of Curiosities. In addition, The Pop Group plans to soon reissue their two studio albums with new remasters.
Out Of Time will be reissued on CD, DD, LP, and a Limited Edition Box. The box (which incorporates Cabinet Of Curiosities) will feature an extensive 36-page booklet with memorabilia, photos, and liner notes, a badge, and a bookmark. The LPs will be issued on 180g-weight vinyl, and will be released in two colors that include a red/white coloring, and a monochrome grey and will be issued exclusively to pledge participants. (As of this writing, there are twenty days remaining to acquire these. See here.) Both LPs will be finished with a psychedelic gloss unique to each disc. The LP release of Cabinet Of Curiosities will issue in black vinyl. See here for the many reissue variations, and ordering info.
The track-list for We Are Time:
01 – Trap (demo)
02 – Thief Of Fire (live) (heard below)
03 – Genius Or Lunatic (live)
04 – Colour Blind (demo)
05 – Spanish Inquisition (live)
06 – Kiss The Book (John Peel Session)
07 – Amnesty Report II
08 – Springer
09 – Sense Of Purpose (demo)
10 – We Are Time (live)
The track-list for Cabinet Of Curiosities:
01 – Where There’s A Will
02 – She Is Beyond Good And Evil (a previously unheard Andy Mackay-produced version)
03 – Colour Blind
04 – Words Disobey Me
05 – Don’t Sell Your Dreams
06 – We Are Time
07 – Abstract Heart (previously unreleased)
08 – Amnesty Report III
09 – Karen’s Car (previously unreleased)
The band has reformed in 2010, currently touring. They hope to release a new album in the near future.