Like any band who have been labelled pioneers of their genre, The Pop Group are an acquired taste to those outside their own fan base. Though they are largely responsible for transitioning punk to post-punk, the ironically named band struggle with their own defined persona. This is obvious on new album Honeymoon on Mars, Their second release since their 2010 reunion.
Much like The Pop Group’s previous album, 2015’s Citizen Zombie, Honeymoon on Mars suffers from all style no substance. They just can’t settle on any one idea in a song which can make listening to it exhilaratingly frustrating (like on “War Inc”), or downright annoying (the rest of the album). Brutally, the album is a mess, what was once a youthful exuberance, has turned into a band that can’t make their mind up. From the first lines of opening track “For they shall have no dominion”, the band sound downright cheesy, inducing laughter rather than the “Wow” feeling of their early work. Mark Stewart’s vocals and lyrics have always been on the tightrope between hilarious and cringy, but on Honeymoon on Mars he reaches the point of accidental parody. Lines about his heart of ash, hell even the song titles: “Zipper Face”, “Burn the Flag”, “City of Eyes” are all designed to provoke visions of a dystopian nightmare, but come off a bit Buck Rodgers: fine but woefully dated.
There are some highlights, the previously mentioned “War Inc” isn’t too obnoxious, “City of Eyes” provokes a Stockholm Syndrome vibe because it’s seems good in all the ways “Instant Halo” seemed bad, and “Pure Ones” has some charm.
Honeymoon on Mars will likely please the purists, like Pixies, The Pop Group succeed in sounding like their younger selves. Except the band were never as popular as Pixies, yes many bands were influenced by them, but what The Pop Group brings to mind now, instead of returning post punk champions, those dudes that call themselves a collective, performing their galactic protest songs at university open mic nights. Their music used to be game changing, now it’s a bit embarrassing.
By: Brad Johnson