New York noise quartet Pop. 1280 gets their name from a Jim Thompson crime novel, and like Thompson, the band paints a bleak picture on The Horror, their full length debut. On opener “Burn the Worm”, tension-filled guitar lines and savage drums unleash a primal, yet controlled fury, accompanied by hideously visceral lyrics such as “two dogs fucking/digging for gold.” Forget foreboding; the danger is already here.
On album highlight “Bodies in the Dunes”, vocalist Chris Burg grimly chants the song’s title with a completely desensitized affect, while rusted nail guitars screech in agony. It’s five minutes of hopelessly unrelenting ferocity that shows no mercy and takes nary a prisoner. “Beg Like a Human” takes brutality to new heights, as Burg invokes his best animal metaphor: “The thing about dogs is that they don’t know what they are doing/I want you to beg like a human, a human dog.”
The sonic landscape crafted by Pop. 1280 on The Horror is that of a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Like the typical dystopian visions found in Mad Max, Fallout, or Escape from New York, the environment here has lost its lushness, everything that remains is built straight out of a scrap heap, and, most importantly, people have increasingly reverted to their baser instincts. If every day is a fight to stay alive, then Pop. 1280’s sinister growls and shrill, weathered instrumental dissonance are weapons of intimidation. Pop. 1280’s The Horror may owe a lot to the no wavers and noise legends of yesteryear, and sometimes loses its bite in moments of uniformity, but it’s a welcome revival. In all its abrasive, atonal, and grotesquely depraved glory, The Horror brings some overdue edge and mayhem to the scene.
Essential Tracks: “Beg Like a Human”, “Bodies in the Dunes”