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Arts & Entertainment

Peter Stenshoel's album of the week - We Are Time by The Pop Group

Never has there been a more intentionally misleading band name than The Pop Group. Anything but pop proponents, these guys embodied the political angst of the late 70s with cheerful ditties like "Amnesty Report" (a transcript apparently from an Amnesty International investigation on British Army torture), "We Are All Prostitutes" ("Department stores are our new cathedrals"), and "Genius or Lunatic," about the borderline between those appellations. The time period in which they sprung up was one in which many of us felt World War III was immanent, and artists were crying out the fear which was indeed palpable. (One of their albums was called For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?)

They were not a punk group, but a spearhead for a kind of extremely loose improvised funk and jazz-inflected movement; and in fact members of The Pop Group went on to form such interesting groups as Pigbag, Maximum Joy, and Rip Rig + Panic. While I was excited in 1979 about what I was hearing, I must say that this particular aggregation has not passed the test of time for me. The vocalist once seemed edgy, but I feel now he is simply incapable of keeping on the beat (let alone carry a tune). The guitars lay down some fun dissonant chords, but fail to please just as often. The most adept player appears to be the bassist.

In lieu of choosing one of these noisy and difficult songs, I leave it to the adventurous to seek them out. The Pop Group can readily be heard via the Web.