Music Reviews
The Horror

Pop. 1280 The Horror

(Sacred Bones) Rating - 8/10

“Hips to the right and hips to the left” — Nature Boy slows up past the song’s initial attack of fuzztone and feedback, vocalist Chris Bug waxing David Yow-like with a tone that’s authoritative while hollow as if he’s constantly swallowing air.  Their name based on a crime novel by Jim Thompson, Pop. 1280 spends their debut LP, The Horror, rockin’ Amphetamine Rep-style across factorial pump and process (Bodies in the Dunes) or grinding guitar strings Cramps’ like overtop danceable swagger (Dogboy).  The Horror combines the expected drones and repetition with the necessary assault and caustic shrieks, providing the ears a feast of pigfuck that draws much of itself from the wells of Big Black’s Songs About Fucking, Abortion Locust Technician by Butthole Surfers and Goat by The Jesus Lizard. 

It’s easy to romanticize this type of music, something so offensive to the ears of rock critic Robert Christgau that he thought the sounds of copulating swine was a close enough equivalent.  Thusly the term was coined and it has stood as a backhanded categorization to the music’s aural assault.  To me, this seems the goal of rock n’ roll, representation of an extreme meant to alienate those upholding the status quo, instigating rebellious and artistic tendencies in budding music nuts.  Pop. 1280 attempt to carry on in a tradition familiar to anyone versed in the world of Steve Albini or Thurston Moore, a legacy of loud and anti-melody, sonic perversions remarking louder than any sung or screamed lyric. 

The first words voiced in The Horror are, “Two dogs fuckin’/Digging for gold,” an apocalyptically dense beat and fractured guitar notes powering the introductory, Burn The Worm.  From the album’s onset, you’re treated to both the abrasive and the profane and all is as it should be.  Other songs like New Electronix and the science fiction chug of Cyclotron provide an almost otherworldly darkness that’s both familiar and happily refreshing.  West World maintains high-level intensity, percussively sturdy and perfectly dissonant and Crime Time brings the aesthetics of Pop. 1280’s pre-Alternative ancestry to some Joy Division constructs, interestingly combining their sparseness with sudden bursts of sonic vitriol.

Overall, The Horror does the job.  While Pop. 1280’s debut seems to function better as an homage to Christgau’s insult-as-genre, the band’s efforts at the very least challenge indie rock’s current M.O. which seems to want to blend credibility with adult contemporized rock music.  Pop. 1280 can remain on the outside, which is where independent music belongs anyway.