The planet is in a pretty fucked up state and we’ve only got ourselves to blame. That may seem obvious to some, but given that Pop. 1280’s position is that we have collectively sleepwalked into this situation, not many are going to be arsed to think of this let alone agree.
Pop. 1280, named presumably after Jim Thompson’s hilarious and searing indictment of his own crime genre, come from a very strong pedigree of hard hitting, plain speaking and downright subversive punk bands; too numerous to mention here but you know who they are!
Here Pop. 1280’s principal target is technology. If some experts are to be believed we live in a world that is closer in time to the Singularity (when Artificial Intelligence will supersede Biological Intelligence) than that which has elapsed since the first Moon landing, and technology is already dominating our lives, often in ways that seems to be for the gratification of capitalist societies and organisation that harness it than for any individual existential benefit. Yet we long for the latest gadget that we are convinced will make our lives just that little bit more fulfilling, or just cool.
For Pop. 1280 nothing is more sinister than the rise of the surveillance society where we are not only followed around by cameras, but are monitored through our communications of social media, via the location trackers on our cell phones, and through ever more complicated and mysterious algorithms which sinisterly bring stuff up on our feeds that make us feel like our minds have been mined directly…
Musically this Pop. 1280 album had taken the band farther away from what we might imagine as punk, but as far as the band’s ethos is concerned it remains slap band in the middle of the genre. This is a hard edged album full of the sort of well defined synth sounds that would not be out of place on early albums from the likes Cabaret Voltaire, DAF and Nitzer Ebb.
Opener ‘Pyramids on Mars’ sets a sinister and angry tone for the album with its scorched vocals and cauterised synchs setting the scene for a ride that is unlikely to be comfortable but is essential to our awareness. ‘Phantom Freighter’ and ‘In Silico’ would not look out of place in a early 1980’s EDM club with their pulsating, angry and heavy repetition, while ‘Chromidia’ is a dark and brooding meditation on the nature of surveillance “Are you my best friend?/ Are you the camera lens?”. ‘USS ISS’ is probably more like previous Pop. 1280 output with a more predominant use of Ivan Drip’s intense guitar work, while Chris Bug is at his Jello Biafra-esque best. This is a deeply angry track which reminded my of superb Sacred Bones label-mates Destruction Unit.
On ‘Paradise’ we get a glimpse of the rat infested dystopian sewer that our society has become. Packed with existential ennui this is a track which permits us to dwell on what we have become and, for me, suggests that there is no way out. This aesthetic is maintained on ‘Rain Song’ which sounds like the drunken ramblings of an individual who has had a sudden moment of lucidity before falling back into the mire of ignorance.
The synths return for ‘The Last Undertaker’ a bleak and, for me, troubling meditation on the role of capitalism in this rabid dystopia…something that is fully realised in the ‘Kingdom Come’, the last track which sees us dancing to the fascist tune…the Twenty-first Century’s equivalent to DAF’s ‘Der Mussolini. For me the strongest and most powerful track on the album, ‘Kingdom Come’ should be played at there part at the end of the world…the wake for our civilisation.
In ‘Paradise’ Pop. 1280 have produced an incredibly important album that deserves to be heard…are you listening?