Pop Will Eat Itself
Happy New Year!
“Very much like scruffy pigs to look at, with big, knobbly warts, and lumps, all over their long, hairy faces. They are very, very ugly.”
So begins Box Frenzy, Pop Will Eat Itself’s true debut album, way back in 1987. PWEI were a band that was integral for me in so many ways I cannot believe I have never really spoken about them here. They were a band that fused punk, metal, funk and electronica to make a series of albums that, while a tad dated now, were unique, influential and extremely fun.
PWEI started their life as part of the short lived “grebo” movement, along with such bands as the Wonderstuff, Carter USM and Neds Atomic Dustbin. Grebo had it’s roots in the pop-punk of the Buzzcocks, but it wasn’t long before Pop Will Eat Itself outgrew that movement and awkwardly entered the slippery slope of Beastie Boys/Red Hot Chili Peppers faux funk/metal/ dance territory with the afore mentioned Box Frenzy album. The Chili Peppers, in the same year Box Frenzy was released, released “Party On Your Pussy”, and PWEI unleashed “Beaver Patrol”. Both were supremely silly and immature frat-rock at it’s very worst but, like the Chili’s the Poppies would get much better with their next album, This Is The Hour, This Is The Day, This…Is This!
This Is The Hour…retained the humor, albeit not the scatological type, and upped the sophistication. The songs were better, the production was better, the ‘rapping’ was toned down. Can U Dig It?, Def-Con One, Wise Up Sucker and especially Not Now James (We’re Busy), and ode to James Brown’s run in with the law, were immensely enjoyable tunes in an album saturated with stand outs. Allmusic states “The secret ingredient was Flood, who brought his considerable production skills to the fore and helped shape an album that was its own sprawling but self-contained universe.”
It is the opinion of your humble narrator that the band hit its stride and artistic peak with the next album, Cure For Sanity. Perfectly sequenced and given a high gloss production, once again by Flood, this is the album to start with. The samples used in the songs range from My Bloody Valentine, Twilight Zone and This Mortal Coil, and helps to give the album its ambiance and eerie undercurrent. There were some poppier moments too, such as the wonderful XY and Z and Another Man’s Rhubabrb, which samples the Jack Nicholson Joker line from the Tim Burton Batman movie: “Never touch another man’s rhubarb…heheheheheheh!”
It should be said at this point that the band used a drum machine up until The Looks Or The Lifestyle, and before you go to another site let me tell you that it only added to the sound as the loops were much more varied, and massive sounding, than average. They added drummer Fuzz Townshend, Pete “Tommy” Townshend’s son, and it changed their sound fairly dramatically. Some say this was when the band ‘jumped the shark’, but I say “nay!” As a matter of fact, this album spawned more ‘hit’ singles than any other Poppy album to date: Eat Me Drink Me Love Me Kill Me, Karmadrome and Bulletproof were all amazing singles making this their most commercially successful album to date.
So of course their label dropped them.
Then long time fan Trent Reznor threw the band a life preserver in the form of a contract with his label and the band released its final album as far as I’m concerned entitled “Dos Dedos Mis Amigos” (two fingers my friends). More of an industrial sound it still contained some classic songs in the form of Familus Horribilus, Everything’s Cool and R.S.V.P. Other than Box Frenzy this is my least listened to PWEI album, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album; far from it, actually. By the time of this release in 1994 I was now living in another country and had moved on, musically speaking. This remains the album that most US fans cite as their favorite, but it’s a far cry from their best.
The recent release of the Poppy’s catalogue has reignited the spark and I am now once again enjoying this band from my youth. If you are curious I would Start with This Is The Day, then Cure For Sanity, Then The Looks Or The Lifestyle. If you make it that far then purchasing the other two, including Box Frenzy, will be no brainers.