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Pop. 1280 - The Grid

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Artist: Pop. 1280

Album: The Grid

Label: Sacred Bones

Review date: Dec. 9, 2010

Better late than never. Now that New York City’s days as a truly dangerous inner city metropolis are well in the rear view mirror, it finally spawns a band that captures this bygone era perfectly. Pop. 1280 make music that sputters and oozes like a raw sewage leak flooding the sidewalks of the city’s not-so-distant past (or present, depending on where you live in Brooklyn). Their label has tossed about the term "cyberpunk" to describe the band and its first 12”, The Grid, and while that may be misleading — conjuring mall-goth visions of WaxTrax — it’s not all that far off, either. For as much as they tap into the city’s rich post-punk history of the dark, confrontational, and uncomfortable (Swans and Circle X specifically come to mind), there is a distinctly modern slant to the topical concerns of the songs that place them, unmistakably, in the here and now.

Like many New Yorkers too young to have lived through it, the lyrics occasionally lug the duffel bag of romanticized nostalgia for a past that few participants would ACTUALLY want back. More often than not though, Chris Bug, Ivan Lip, John Skultrane and Andrew S. manage to successfully flip the forlorn lyrical imagery on The Grid into a bleak dystopian vision of the city’s future — where dormant junkies, hookers, pushers, and yeah, bedbugs — rise up out of Brooklyn’s whitewashed streets to reclaim their rightful kingdom. In this context, the music feels not so much a gift as outright necessity, a desperate howl in the face of encroaching anonymity and personality blanching that gentrification hath wrought upon the modern American metropolis.

Heard from this tower, Pop. 1280 act as a distant early warning signal of sorts, simultaneously kicking against and embracing the sense of spiritual isolation and subsumed identity that are such intrinsic parts of the modern urban living experience. Like the Jim Thompson novel from which they swiped their name, the kids in Pop. 1280 paint stark portraits of human depravity, hollowing out the last remnants of a moral center to inhabit the unsavory worlds of characters existing on the margins of the visible world — ladies of the night, corrupt cops and lost civilizations of sub-subway dwellers. Underneath it all, the band plays on with a single-minded churning, summoning to life the spirits of Roland S. Howard of The Birthday Party and Chrome, advancing a new model of future primitivism and making a convincing case for progress through regression in the process.

By Jon Treneff

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