We Are All Prostitutes

It is very obvious how many contemporary artists from the underground post punk spectrum and beyond still draw inspiration from The Pop Group, a band which originated in Bristol, England during the late seventies. The Pop Group's distinctive musical style brought together punk, funk, dub, and avant-garde experimentational ways, resulting in a challenging and exhilarating sound. Although their time in the underground spotlight was relatively brief, the band's impact endures.

The unyielding political nature of The Pop Group's music prominently stands out as one of the most distinctive character traits in the band's DNA. With unwavering conviction and intensity, the band fearlessly tackled subjects like imperialism, racism, and sexism through their lyrics. 1979's We Are All Prostitutes, and Forces of Oppression, the opening track from the 1980 full length For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?, served as powerful indictments against the systems of power that perpetuated inequality and injustice. The rest of the band's body of work is filled with analogous instances, and many moments of inspiration and brilliance.

The Pop Group fearlessly ventured into uncharted territories, embracing audacious artistic methods, as they fused the high-voltage energy of punk with the infectious grooves of funk, the rather different production techniques of dub, and the improvisational approach of free jazz. This adventurous amalgamation brought a forceful and whimsical sonic profile with not much comparisons, particularly in their earlier days, and the band's pioneering incorporation of dissonance, noise, and feedback set them apart, leaving an indelible mark on underground post punk, and future generations.

The Pop Group did receive acclaim from critics and audiences, and developed a devoted fan base in their brief tenure. With their music presenting a formidable challenge, it was almost impossible for the band's sound to become massively popularized. The Pop Group required a kind of undivided and demanding attention, and their creations were far from being easily digestible.

After regrouping at the request of Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, for a curated ATP festival in 2010, The Pop Group has been diligently active in their revival. They have released a series of notable reissues and compilations featuring new archival material.

Their 2015 album, Citizen Zombie, marked their first new release in 35 years, and their unexpected shift with 2016's Honeymoon On Mars, reaffirmed their significance. With their recent endeavors, The Pop Group have proven to be as provocative and explosive as always.

The relevance of The Pop Group's message stands strong, as the world continues to confront many of the same issues the band addressed in their music many years ago. Music should be perceived as an expression, more than mere entertainment, and art like that of The Pop Group has the capacity to act as a catalyst for profound transformation and liberation.

On the morning of April 21st, 2023, the music world was saddened to hear of the passing of The Pop Group's Mark Stewart. 

Band photo by Brian Griffin


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