Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, August 06, 2003
OVERRATED!, VOLUME ONE : THE POP GROUP….I’ve had it in mind for months now to compile the be-all & end-all list of the most overrated musical acts of all time, or at least of our current day – those bands or artists that people just can’t seem to stop hailing to the skies while you scratch your noggin and ask, “What the f&%#???!?”. We all have ‘em. Part of my reluctance to publishing “the list” stems from the full knowledge that a lot of artists that rub me as supremely overrated just happen to be rated highly by my pals or by influential peers whom I respect. So let’s establish right off the bat that,

A.) There’s no accounting for taste, and
B.) My opinions are just that, opinions. Yours are equally valid and defensible.

That said, of course I want to sway you to my way of thinking by forcing you to renounce your former heroes, turn against yourself, and brutally question your entire core system of values and beliefs. Will it work? You let me know if it does, OK?

I’d like to start this series with a band I find incredibly heinous, completely unlistenable and indisputably OVERRATED! That band is the POP GROUP, the late 70s/early 80s UK art/wank/funk/reggae band that’s undergone a renaissance of critical thought in recent years. Who was asleep at the switch when these guys waltzed into the critical canon unmolested? They’re getting covered by moderne art-noise groups, there’s an (admittedly well-done) full web site slavishly devoted to and praising the band, they’re popping up on comps, and they’re being thrown into comparative sentences with true worthies such as THE FALL, SWELL MAPS, GANG OF FOUR, BIRTHDAY PARTY and so on. Amazing. Their representative tunes – the ones chosen for the comps – are “We Are All Prostitutes” and “She Is Beyond Good and Evil”. The snarky, wheezing vocals on these two are grating enough, but each track is so unstructured and atonal that it’s honestly hard to discern where the pleasure lies. You certainly can’t dance to it, unless you just finished smoking a giant bowl; it’s not clever enough to rank with the true pioneers of dub or even of white boy funk; and when rated against the explosion of British rock and roll creativity and boundary-pushing during this time period, the POP GROUP are decidedly minor players, if that. Check that – extremely OVERRATED minor players! Now, you tell me – who’s really been smoking the bowl here?

More overrateds in the weeks to come.