The titles of Pop. 1280’s 2010 debut EP and 2012 debut LP are as tire-iron blunt as they are sociologically instructive: The Grid and The Horror (both Sacred Bones). The sound – a managed-chaos smash-up of caveman drums, radon-scented keyb vamps, and guitar figures codpiece introverted and charnel-house charred – is brutalist in a vaguely accessible way, punk and pig-fuck and synth-pop run riot, looting, ransacking, and burning midtown boutiques together.
Trashy, vexing, and propulsive, the Brooklyn foursome bang out party-hard anthems for off-the-books transactions in red-light district alleys and squat-house squalor interludes, narrated by frontman Chris Bug. If Craig Finn is your embarrassingly candid drunk uncle and David Yow the disheveled condominium wino handed a microphone, Bug’s the sawed-off ass clown who solicits coked-up young things for SuperSize-kink rendezvous via Craigslist, beats off to Porntube when nobody bites, and when all else fails, howls his miseries into busted microphones.
(Also: sometimes Pop. 1280 seem to be broadcasting from within an operating Laundromat clothes dryer, if not from within an operating Cyclotron. Side note: Pop. 1280 totally have a song called “Cyclotron.”)
Grid wryly beckoned “welcome to the grid,” evoked the cyberpunk urban sprawl of Blade Runner, and showed us terror in a handful of angel dust; it isn’t too huge of stretch to think of Horror as Grid with a limp, a beer belly, and a mean streak. Desperation – as celebration, as epidemic, as ecstasy, as all three at once – abounds, and pounces. “Nature Boy” – between this and “Crime Time,” these guys have gotta be WWE fanatics – boils with psychosexual, gun-fetish lunacy even as it references Rage Against The Machine’s rapid-fire rhythm-funk and charging raps on the verses and lurches into turgid, wrenching gulches on the choruses. The chanted, titular refrain of “Bodies in the Dunes” imagines end-of-days skullduggery or kidnappings gone bad, the warped, corkscrewing blare and sheet-metal clatter ratcheting massaging ennui into doom. The lead off lyric on this album is “Two dogs fucking,” while the serrated noise-grunge of “Dogboy” tenses and yanks like a leashed collar that’s constantly constricting.
It’s not so much that the end is nigh than that the end is now, if you like. Bug’s bulging neck-vein bug-outs often feel less like portents of things to come than warped mirror perversions of our present-tense – as if by exploring exaggerated or cartoonish representations of what’s understood as normalcy and yoking them to scorched-Earth synth-punk, it might be possible to stoke discussion about what we are, about where our humanity ends and our baser, more animalistic instincts begin. Can we set self-delusion aside and embrace reality? When does satiation become exploitation? Who will survive in Ron Paul’s America? Which one of the men in this room is a replicant? How was the shattering note effect that’s all over “West World” achieved? Where can I score an oil barrel for my drum set-up?