Inter-band scraps, blatant sexuality and off-stage debauchery aside, we hardly ever associate beefiness with your average blog band these days, even less so if they’re associated with Brooklyn. With No New York looking more like a fairytale, the bands that represent NYC are grown-ups like the National, Interpol and Animal Collective; all talented, but certainly not dangerous. It only takes one Google search to find a dozen articles about how the boroughs have lost their edge. Sure these thoughts generally come from New Yorkers who’ve spoiled themselves long enough, but regardless, the feelings have been kicking around long enough to deserve a mention: even James Murphy crankily eulogized it in his resonate anthem “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” Frankly I doubt the folks in Pop. 1280 are old enough to remember the jagged (perhaps nostalgia-fueled) grit of the city’s legendary art scene, but even in small doses The Horror feels like a tribute – charred, coldly brooding post-punk brimming with masculinity. It stews with a familiar sharp fury, something that would make a No Wave historian very proud.
The Horror is a very ugly album. Ugly in that doomy, filthy, urban-corrosion kind of way. Huge slabs of barreling, industrial noise, guitars that sound made of nails and broken glass, murky sub-level synths – this is very much boy music. Lyrics cascade in Castlevania-metal mantras; “Radio speakers say you’re eating flesh again” “Waiting for my dutch /I suggest you start collecting dust,” “Bodies in the dunes /BODIES IN THE DUNES!” The lack of evolution is honestly part of the appeal; very rarely does a band deal in such an uncultivated posture, with seemingly no interest in sex, religion, politics or irony, and still make it on the pages of indie blogs. Instead of wallowing in self-consciousness, they rhyme “hang him high” with “until he dies” and manage to look cool doing it.
Luckily their craft keeps the 43 minutes from being minor bum-metal pastiche. Like most things about Pop. 1280, their particular strain of post-punk is unilaterally rawer than the rest of the more rational scene. They may not be iterating, but the brittle, blackened, and unmistakably sinister sound they generate is viscerally enthralling in a very instinctual way. Zack Ziemann’s drumming is particularly ferocious, in ways only a thorough investment in a project can sound. Ivan Lip guts his voice of any tonality, searing with energy, cacophony, and riled-up hysterics. They’re dingy rabble-rousers as much as they are musicians, it’s something that immediately jumps from out of The Horror- sure their aesthetic might not go much deeper than that, but it really doesn’t need to. Their skronk is so enthusiastic it’s surprisingly contagious.
It’s pretty easy to predict the backlash The Horror might face if people end up paying attention to it. It’s very much adolescent music, built primarily for sweaty basements – there’s actually a coda on “Nature Boy” where Lip repeats “Hips to the right and hips to the left! /Right, left! /Right, left!” over a sooty danceable groove. Pop. 1280 seem to understand that their raucousness is their most valuable asset, best proven and cultivated on tour – the internet might be a little too cynical to offer a throwback New York industrial-punk LP an extended look. They’re not a band that responds well to scrutiny, nor do they intend to be. The Horror’s assault is quite capable of speaking for itself, and that’s what makes it so memorable.
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