With only one original member left, grebo gurus Pop Will Eat Itself are perilously close to being defined as a tribute act, but tonight’s performance in the Electric Ballroom is shot through with the irreverent energy that the group were loved for, and not solely nostalgia.
Formed in 1986 in Stourbridge, England, the Poppies were sample-loving chaos-infused young ’uns flirting with indie, industrial, and dance beats. Film-scoring maestro Clint Mansell is the band’s better known member, but it ain’t him spewing rhymes and bouncing across the stage, but his co-songwriter Graham Crabb.
A paunchy middle-aged fellow, Crabb throws himself about the stage with utter abandon, cheerfully crashing into Mansell stand-in, Mary Byker, of ’80s psych-rockers Gaye Bykers on Acid. He’s not the only one getting on in age. Most of the punters here were probably bopping students first time round and they certainly haven’t forgotten how to move.
The atmosphere is warm, jubilant and nostalgic. From the off, the crowd shakes into movement, bouncing and dancing, and gleefully singing along. Crabb’s setlist is admirable – he whisks up the mood with classics like ‘Def Con One’, ‘RSVP’, and ‘Preaching to the Perverted’ while dropping in the occasional new song from last year’s New Noise Designed By A Sadist album. The pace never drops. As soon as a recent track is played – the pop-punk efforts are surprisingly well received – then the band rattle into another old school hit.
Mansell’s influence is referenced – Byker introduces the anti-racism battle cry ‘Ich bin ein Auslander’ with a nod to its creator and a swift word that he expects everyone in the room to believe in its sentiments. The dark industrial song still sounds like a killer – even if it wasn’t so well received by Gaybo on the Late, Late stage many moons ago.
A growling and heavy rendition of ‘There’s No Love Between Us Anymore’ starts up a swirling pit, but it’s a disappointment to hear an incredibly mushy version of ‘Wise Up! Sucker’, which doesn’t sound like anything except for rambling vocals over indistinct guitars.
So all right, Crabb may be trading on a past name to get a little bit more recognition for his recent musical endeavours, and on paper, it does seem a bit tribute band, but to be blown away back to the ’90s in one fell, heavy, sample-driven swoop, to that, we’ll willingly pay tribute.