Pop. 1280 Imps of Perversion

[Sacred Bones; 2013]

Styles: post-apocalypse punk
Others: The Birthday Party, Cop Shoot Cop, Sex Church, Pissed Jeans

In his excellent piece on Yeezus, which attempts to situate Kanye’s latest against the backdrop of contemporary noise, Ad Hoc’s Mike Sugarman observes that “Violence is perhaps power’s most direct form of action, and assuming the language of power is often the best way to reveal its horror.” Horror is clearly a concept near and dear to the hearts of Brooklyn’s Pop. 1280, so much so that it served as the title of their full-length debut from last year. We shouldn’t be surprised, therefore, that Imps of Perversion finds vocalist Chris Bug leaning heavily upon the “language of power” as a means of generating such horror.

Images of control and domination crop up with alarming frequency on the album; obvious examples include the foundering megalomaniac at the center of “The Control Freak,” the ominously robotic vocal hook on “Population Control” proclaiming “We’re here to keep you down,” and “The Dawn of Man’s” delightfully unambiguous refrain, “You’re all lubed up/ For a night of pain.” But while the language of power may be de rigueur for music on the noisier end of the spectrum, Bug hones his visions of paranoia to a shining, satirical edge by linking them to some of the more unsettling developments in current events. It’s hard not to draw a connection between lyrics like “He’s got the world on a wire/ And a tap on all your lines” and the headline-grabbing PRISM scandal, or between “Human Probe II’s” plea to “Release the drones and police dogs/ To keep me safe and quiet” and contemporary anxieties over the implications of unrestricted drone warfare and our passive acceptance of it. Even the relatively diffuse narrative of “Nailhouse” manages to sink its hooks into latent fears of government overreach in the service of private industry. Indeed, the most disturbing aspect of Pop. 1280’s shift towards the topical might just be how imperceptible the transition seems from the fantastically lurid subject matter of The Horror.

The sonic backdrop of these dystopian vignettes remains largely unchanged from their previous effort: an industrial punk chassis tricked out with a sickly patina of Birthday Party guitar and 80s slasher movie synth. Yet Imps manages to hit even harder than its predecessor. The crowded, chaotic arrangements cling like choking vines to Pascal Ludet’s sensuous bass lines. Beneath the shrill and rusty squall of tracks like “Do the Anglerfish” and “Human Probe” is a rhythm you could almost dance to. Fittingly enough, these two tracks also make good on the album title’s promise of perversity. Through the clouds of shrieking guitar effects, the low-life from “Anglerfish” crows about seedy back-seat rendezvous and intimate encounters in public restrooms, but his repeated intention to “latch on” to his partner with his teeth falls somewhere between a promise and a threat. “Human Probe” offers an image of surreal degradation, a figure “Secretly secreting/ With his tongue crawling under the door.” The mixture of hardboiled pitilessness and Cronenbergian body horror marks this song as the paragon gruesome dissipation that the band has been reaching for all along.

While New York scene-mates The Men have softened their approach with each new release, the boys in Pop. 1280 ain’t got the time of day for that shit. Imps of Perversion is every bit as stark and nasty as the band’s previous outings. Only this time, the boogeymen and the futuristic hellscapes seem a little less remote, not quite as far-removed from reality as before. Pop. 1280 reminds us that if we peel back the veneer of bourgeois security, we would see that the power-brokers of this world have us all on our hands and knees. What’s truly perverse and horrific is that they also suggest that maybe we could learn to enjoy it.

Links: Pop. 1280 - Sacred Bones

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