Pop. 1280 The Horror

[Sacred Bones; 2012]

Styles: dystopian punk
Others: The Birthday Party, Cop Shoot Cop, Sex Church, The Men

Pop. 1280 — a novel by renowned author of hardboiled fiction, Jim Thompson. Per Wikipedia: “the first-person narrative of Nick Corey, the listless sheriff of Pottsville County, the “47th largest county in the state” (probably Texas) with a population of “1280 souls” (a number much reduced by the story’s end).”

Pop. 1280 — a New York punk band consisting of Chris Bug (vocals), Ivan Lip (guitar), Zach Ziemann (drums), and Pascal Ludet (bass/programming).

There is a deadly undertow drifting almost imperceptibly through the placid waters of indie rock amid which Pop. 1280 (the band) seems very much at home. But while like-minded degenerates Sex Church and The Men get their kicks by pulling together the scattered offal and detritus of punk’s long and sordid legacy into new configurations, there is something unsettlingly single-minded in Pop. 1280’s approach.

These are blasted landscapes, populated by moaning synth that rests uneasily between 1980s straight-to-video sci-fi and grindhouse slasher. But the coup de (torchon?) grâce is Lip’s paper-thin guitar shrieks. He captures the Rowland S. Howard signature sound better than anything I’ve ever heard. Every note comes out dry and jaundiced, as though Lip’s instrument were strung with rusty coat-hangers. It pulses like a dim locator on “New Electronic,” cascades like a shower of sparks over Ludet’s driving bass rhythm in “West World,” and gouges a frail Morse Code SOS into the throbbing, retro-futuristic beat of “Crime Time.”

Charged with the distasteful task of populating these landscapes is Chris Bug, a man with dark-turn-of-mind if there ever was one. Director Carl Theodore Dryer once posed a situation: “Imagine we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly, we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered: everything in it has taken on another look… This is because we have changed, and the objects are as we conceive them.” Bug’s post-apocalyptic hellscapes are littered with corpses, all hidden just out of view, like the skull beneath the skin. There are bodies in the dunes.

As an unsettling exercise in pop terrorism, The Horror is a rare treat. To enter its atmosphere is to gaze into the multi-eyed reflections of a splintered divining mirror, each shard a possible future dystopia lying ahead of an irrecoverable past.

Links: Pop. 1280 - Sacred Bones

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