Scuzzy cybertech love oiks Pop Will Eat Itself have pulled up their socks (and their trousers), thrown up and grown up, offering a cure for sanity (ha!) with their brand new album. We tag along for a good Indian to diss the Dark Lord and fight over the naan bread and Pop-adoms.
"What is the truth about rock music?… Plato says that when the music of a society changes the whole society changes. Aristotle, a contemporary of Plato's, says that there should be laws to govern the character and nature of a society's music. Lenin says that the quickest way to undermine any society is through its music…"
Conversely, however, Pop Will Eat Itself say "Sample It, Loop It, F-- it and Eat It". And I think we can all learn
something from that. Clint takes a sip and offers some illumination on that most constant of riddles - just what do Pop Will Eat Itself think they're playing at?
"A certain Radio 1 person said that he wouldn't play a single of ours even if it was in the Top Five. Pretty bad thing to be up against, that."
Richard takes up the thread. "We'll never win with some people. They made the decision a long time ago to be enemies of Pop Will Eat Itself."
Who are these enemies of Pop Will Eat Itself? Why have they got it in for these loveable souls, the men who single-handedly invented High Tech Low Life Grebo Cyberdisco? The short, strange trip of the Four Poppies (Elvis, Kylie, Jason and Saddam) is a miniature parable concerning the weird nature of the recent pop experience. Born scuzzy Midland Love Oiks in the floundering hopelessness of the second half of the `80s, they mutated into Coin-Op B-Boys for kids too smart (or too white) to be fooled by Louis Farrakhan and all that serious stuff. PWEI saw the real possibilities in the hip-hop maelstrom, (i.e. Theft, collage, jokes, fun, juxtapositions, dancing) and simply excised all the dimbulb philosophising. Coming from Stourbridge, theirs were never going to be the concerns of Chuck D or Professor Griff. Fear of the Black Country was more up their street. But astonishingly, even though the idiom they gravitated towards was hip-hop, not big on authenticity, they were decried by purists. As well as their friends in high and low places, PWEI have always got right up some people's noses.
Richard: "I think from the word go some people hated us. Well, no, that's not strictly true. There were these people, mainly journalists who heard our name and decided they loved us before we had made any records… "
Because they figured you as middle '80s art pop subversives?
Clint: "I suppose so. We just thought it was a good, daft name. So when we turned out to be what we were, they felt personally betrayed and upset… and they've never forgiven us."
And presumably they won't forgive them now. The new Pop Will Eat Itself album "The Pop Will Eat Itself Cure For Sanity" continues the Poppies quest for the ultimate all-singing, all-dancing re-usable pop artefact. The nearest sensible comparison would seem to be the kind of record De La Soul would make if their Daisy Age had taken Noddy Holder as its guru. Sarky, silly, energetic, loopy (in all senses of the word) and loath to stop.
Clint: "We were keen on making an LP that didn't stop. When you get to the end, you get bits of the first track and vice versa. But as you probably realise, very little goes according to plan. One side of the record had gone to be cut while we were still recording the other side." Which contributes to the popular image of the Poppies as slightly flakey ne'er do wells clinging to stardom's tails.
Clint: "Well, yeah. We'd be liars if we claimed to be incredibly disciplined. But we do work very hard when we put our minds to it. Part of the trouble is that some people still see us as this bunch of lads who drop their trousers at any opportunity."
Ah yes, I was coming to that. As an earnest young man, PWEI presented me and many of my ilk with a bit of a moral dilemma. How were we to reconcile the fact that those rollicking, good-humoured, action-packed tunes emanated from those dodgy geezers proffering their bums to every camera in sight? And then there was "Beaver Patrol"; a song that you couldn't admit to liking in my Personal Growth/Self-Help Group since the corking rock disco dynamics came with an accompanying text extolling the virtues of "going downtown and hustling chicks". Rumours had it at the time that even John Peel banned it, which was untrue, but it did make several smart folks froth in indignation. These days the Poppies are rueful.
Adam: "I think it's possible that every band goes through what you might call the "trouser-dropping" phase. When you imagine everything's a bit of a laugh. It was just that with us it grew out of all proportion. I don't know why we ever did it in the first place. There's nothing remotely attractive about our bums."
But it all adds up to the image of the Poppies as those beery louts who enjoy nothing more of an evening than shouting abuse at Fuzzbox in a Brum club and having a bit of a vom. All lads together.
Richard: "I know. And we aren't a gang at all. Basically, when you've been on the road in America for six weeks and Australia for three the last thing I want to do for fun is hang around with Clint."
Adam: "We don't depend on each other for entertainment. Having said that, we're not one of those bloody groups who make a career out of hating each other. Graham lives in London, Richard lives in Birmingham, Clint and me live in Stourbridge. We go down the pub, see other people and things."
Clint: "But people have fostered this image of us. Like journalists who write out your interviews phonetically so you'll come over like a thick Brummie. You see 'em do it with the Happy Mondays too."
Certain sections of the music press get short shrift from the Poppies. Particularly those of the `swirling vortex of sound` tendency who seem to alternate between sneering and misunderstanding PWEI's singular world view. Clint shrugs this off by claiming that he makes records for "fans and people to come to gigs, not for some c-- who sits on his arse and does nothing". He's similarly dismissive of the recent obsession with the charts.
"They're more bothered about where our singles get to than we are. On one level, it's great that some new bands are breaking into the charts, but really, is that the only measure of success these days?"
With hindsight, the Poppies' early cover of Sigue Sigue Sputnik's "Love Missile F1-11" is a telling reference. SSS in their pompous, twerpish way, talked a lot of creating music that was fast, multi-media, and cuttingly modern.
Unfortunately, they were rubbish at it - and it was left to the poppies to make great music out of the theory of techno-plunder, part Hanna Barbera, part Atari 520ST, part Blade Runner and part Public Enemy. There are more things going on in your average Poppies track than in a boxed set of your average rock "legend". At best, they're funny, furious, full of sound bites and blipverts. At worst, they can give you a headache. But that's a small part to pay. But some people have still failed to cotton on. Some of the Poppies' run-ins with the po-faced are legendary.
Richard: "Oh yes, like getting coined by our Belgian punter friend… the one with "Breakdance" written on his jacket."
Is that still what you listen to?
All: "What? Breakdance?"
Adam: "I've been listening to our LP a lot, actually. And Madonna and Simon and Garfunkel and the Ruthless Rap Assassins."
Which sounds like a healthy diet for any boy. To augment it, however, we adjourn for a curry. Here, we are impeccably behaved although there is a slight altercation over the distribution of the naan breads. Topics quickly include the singer in Ride, bands who boast of massive chemical consumption and Ian Astbury. All sadly libellous, however. Mr. Astbury's current "dark lord" appellation gives much cause for mirth. What must it be like in the pub? "And what'll you have then, Dark Lord?" This is still tickling us in the pub. So much so, that the local quiz league collapses in bitterness and acrimony around us, particularly when a gaggle of hawkeyed young punters begin to sing "Can U Dig It" at us. Everyone signs themselves "The Dark Lord". Finally, what should the world know about the new Poppies LP?
Clint: "That it's out next week and you can buy it."
Adam; "In the press next week. `Poppies dropped. Album on back burner 'til one of them dies.`"
A week later in a club I hear "Beaver patrol" and "Dance of the Mad" sandwiched between some awful `cathedrals of sound` sixth for existentialism. It sounds terrific. I instantly vomit and drop my trousers. Where is a member of Fuzzbox when you need her?