Pop. 1280 are ostensibly still a punk band, but in practice they spread themselves far beyond the boundaries of that genre. Dark ambient synth-scapes are leered over by Chris Bug’s desolate vocals and some real gnarly noisy guitar. Cello and trumpet ever appear, all contributing to the deliciously bitter atmosphere. On Sacred Bones.
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Sacred Bones are pretty much the Digimon of record labels. Traversing the ruins of whatever ancient city (or, you know, doing the indie rock thing in Brooklyn), they let artists dabble in temporary evolution, stretching their palette beyond breaking point before bringing them back to the osmosis of their sound. Remember when the Men got a ‘lil too Tom Petty? They immediately rerouted into Tom Petty Punx, going from the folksy balladeering of ‘New Moon’ to the country shred of ‘Tomorrow’s Hits’. On ‘Paradise’, Pop. 1280 undergo a similar halfway expansion: they’ve become a synth-scaped, more formally gothic band, abandoning the no frills noise punk for something more cinematic and haunting. Trent Reznor is watching, and he is smiling.
And yet: this is still recognisably a Pop. 1280 record, one comprised of the same thrills and tempers as ever -- it’s only that the pulse has heightened. ‘Paradise’ uses programmed drums and electronic additives to create a finer layer of cacophony, a different way of laying down Chris Bug’s nasally spat treatises. If anything, Pop. 1280 sound even more venomous on this record, elucidating their bitter sound with fucked up versions of melodic flourishes (the cello and trumpet that appear on the record are not, you know, orchestral). On the record’s indisputable centrepiece, “In Silico”, Bug’s thoughts rattle around the verses, the same mantra of “I dream in infra-red” repeating with different levels of scorn until he can take no more and bursts into brief, relieving choruses -- tellingly, it’s the suffocating verses I keep coming back for.
Pop. 1280 can still make a fast ‘n’ loose punk song like “USS ISS”, which does much the same as one of their early songs by way of an almost Death Grips industrialisation -- think the lucid, scrap-metal energy of “I’ve Seen Footage” if it had squelchier synth -- but there’s an ambition to this record, too, a plan put forward. The tinkering hauntology ambience of “Paradise” suggests they can sit and think as much as they can shout and shred. Nihilism can be two things.
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