Honoured to be asked to review the PWEI covers project, I soon realised the last place I wanted to be was in a position of power, to find myself held on a pedestal with critical acclaim or artistic ridicule as the tools of my trade. I’ve been through the highs and lows of such a system and quite frankly wish I’d said no!
Having said that, I am utterly respectful of the support from PWEInation and the hard work, energy and glowing tributes put together by you guys and girls, some of which I assume have no previous knowledge of recording sounds to ‘tape’. Yes I know it’s not a cassette but you know… age, set in his ways, ignorance, stubbornness etc.
I have an inbred fear of tackling music software, something I have avoided for so long, so massive respect to all that contributed towards this project, and thanks for navigating such a minefield and showing me the righteous path. How could I fail to be impressed so, ‘fuck it’, I’ll give it a go and if anyone’s upset they can go follow ‘The Waterboys’. Hallelujah!
‘No Pop No Style’ is a twenty track tribute album produced by ‘fans’ of ‘Pop Will Eat Itself’ covering our music from 1986 to the present day. The idea has been mooted for many years, finally being collated by ‘Paul Snell’ aka ‘Payback3000’ who contributes not just a couple of tunes but also the fantastic ‘theDesignersRepublic’ influenced artwork.
Right then, it’s you guys now in the spotlight, the shop window, the peanut gallery so get ya hard hat.
Some tunes obviously suffer from a lack of expertise, of sampling proficiency, of programming ability and some suffer from a lack of vocal prowess. Who cares?
Punk rock leads the way, it’s DIY, it’s PWEI, it’s what we were always about… don’t let anything hold you back!
Every song has something to offer, I don’t really want to openly criticise any artist so I’m going to announce in reverse order my ‘top 10’.
10. ‘Babylon’ by 7eventy6ix
A really cool, groove heavy instrumental remix, it gets inside your head and runs and runs. Our original version of ‘Babylon’ was a favourite track of ‘Korda Marshall’ our main record company guy. He loved it and saw it as our big commercial hit, to take us to that next level. We played it live a number of times but fell out of love with its overtly poppy feel and searched for a harsh awkward or quite frankly just a great beat to give it more of an ‘edge’. We never found it and stripped it back and gave it a real slow feel. Korda was devastated. It only really made it onto the ‘Dos Dedos Mis Amigos’ album because we had no other songs written and ‘DEADLINE’ was calling. Whoever ‘7eventy6ix’ are they’ve found the beat PWEI searched for to make Babylon that track we all wanted it to be. Where were you when we needed you? Nice one.
9. ‘Intergalactic Dub Mission’ by Project 13
‘Project 13’ is Paul Snell, compiler of ‘No Pop No Style’. I always consider this tune to be a hidden gem from ‘Box Frenzy’ so really pleased to hear it as part of this compilation. Graham wrote this track as an acoustic tune with a simple beat and a keyboard line. When we changed direction from an authentic (sort of) bass, guitar, drums combo to a beatbox, sample heavy, rap apocalypse quartet this song was put together in the studio and saturated with samples. It happened almost instantly and paved the way for such future PWEI product.
On this dub heavy remix the beat, sounds, production and arrangement are top quality. Very ‘Orb’ like, great added spoken word samples. Love it!
8. ‘Inside You’ by The Penny Licks
‘Inside You’ suffered from our change of direction around the time of ‘Box Frenzy’. We would probably have dropped this tune if we had more time in the studio to hone our ‘new style’. At first I was shaken by the lo-fi sound of this remix but it works a treat, brilliant vocals, cool as fuck! Reminds me of early ‘Belle and Sebastian’ but I couldn’t name one of their songs so I could be wrong! I liked this version so much I looked at their facebook page and played some of their original stuff. I really liked it. Or did I look because I was intrigued by the female vocalist…ah who knows but I’m glad I did, I wasn’t disappointed. By far the best cover version of ‘Inside You’ that I’ve heard, as I said not a PWEI track that I am particularly keen on so this version is extra special.
7. ‘Urban Futuristic (Son of South Central)’ by Let’s get Lo-Fi Motherfucker
Love it, got that ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ feel… perfection. If any of us have the misfortune to be fried on the electric chair, it no longer seems enough to vocalise ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ as we meet our maker and seek repentance, we now need to take along an acoustic guitar. It’s the new style!
6. ‘Seek and Destroy’ by Project 13
Again by Paul Snell, a journey into old skool rave, it’s gonna be a long hot summer… vibes are in the field, pre- ‘Criminal Justice Bill’. Would sit on the first Prodigy album and that’s saying summat! Bit of a ‘Charly’ vibe to it! Talented guy!
5. ‘Menofearthereaper’ by Artificial Human
I have met this guy and know what a talent he is. This is a great mix, sampling the original and adding plenty of his own ‘feel’ and style…love the brass funky samples and the cool wah style guitar. Heard I think a remix from him of ‘Mask’ off the last PWEI album. Hopefully one day it will be made available. My only criticism of this remix (and it’s a big one)…about 4 minutes too short! Come on David… schoolboy error son! Only joking, cracking tune! Still 4 minutes too short though.
4. ‘The Fuses Have Been Lit’ by King Brown
Originally this track was written before our love of drum machines and samples. When we were recording ‘This Is The Day, This Is The Hour, This Is This’ we resurrected it and if I remember rightly fused a ‘Velvet Underground’ beat with a ‘Joy Division’ beat, and again saturated the track with samples and fx. I added a second keyboard riff and Clint wrote the vocals in the studio. Originally written by Graham, I think it was an instrumental apart from the middle section with the heavy guitars which included purely the vocal line ‘The Fuses Have Been Lit’. Whilst me, Clint, Rich and producer ‘Flood’ shaped this song Graham was in another part of the studio writing the words for Rich’s instrumental tune ‘Satellite Ecstatica’, trivia fans!
This remix is amazing, the vocals get better during the track, the work put into this should not be under estimated; the sourcing of the samples and the fx used show a genuine love of PWEI and a tribute to ‘King Brown’ as much as to PWEI. Some samples are substituted for alternative ones, many of which having equal worth. ‘King Brown’ has produced a monster of a remix… really appreciate the chance to listen to this… thank you!
3. ‘Wise up! Sucker’ by Jason and Paul vs The Vocal Minority
I love this version; although they’ve sampled much of Youth’s amazing 1989 remix and purloined much of our hard work I can forgive them. Sampling is such a talentless art form… but someone’s got to do it.
Fantastic vocal with attitude from ‘Floz’ from ‘Carts Before Horses’ and equally cool extra guitar by ‘Chris Trevorah’and ‘Jason Bailey’. Sweet guitar chord change that sits over the ten or so guitar tracks laid down in a Fulham studio some24 years ago… strewth!
If you can’t dig this version at least you might enjoy a fantastic ‘make over’ from ‘Jason and Paul’. Please call into one of their chain of beauty boutiques on your local High Street. No end to their talent! Incredible!
2. ‘Sweet Sweet Pie’ by Carts Before Horses
Again a great vocal from ‘Floz’, heavy on the fx. Nice, dirty guitar sound again by ‘Chris Trevorah’ with an abundance of energy generated by ‘Carts Before Horses’. Old skool drum machine sound and programming. To me this remix feels like a pretty current indie/alternative style band making their way up the festival bill. I could see a big future but what do I know?
Any trivia fans out there? ‘Sweet Sweet Pie’ doesn’t really mean anything. In our very early days we would quite often catch the train to Coventry to support any band that would have us on the bill and also lend us an amp and most of their drum kit. After one such unpaid gig the four of us were travelling back to Birmingham on the last train with our guitars, an amp and a snare drum and the ticket inspector heard us talking about how hungry we all were and the lack of any money for a ‘donna’. He re-appeared with a little box of what looked like homemade jam tarts. He said they were an Indian dish and his wife made the best in the country. He said they were called ‘sweet pie’. As we thankfully devoured the generous offer we were so hungry and they were so nice we replied sweet ‘sweet pie’. He seemed pleased. Nice man… PWEI legend!
1. ‘1000xNo’ by Section 3
Love it, great sounding groovy beats and dirty guitars. ‘Section 3’ has sampled much of the original song, so much so that Graham even makes an entrance. Great vocal attempt, maybe a tad loud in the mix but this is merely nit-picking! Successfully improved the catchiness of the “What do we want… respect… and when do we want it…right now!” sample from ‘Taxi Driver’. Respect indeed.
I’m pleased to hear this track is covered, I can’t remember if we ever played this track live but I remember rehearsing it before the ‘Cure For Sanity’ tour. I remember it was the last track we started to rehearse and I think we were hard pushed to get it sounding right before the opening night. We may have played it live maybe twice but no more than this. Consequently ‘1000xNo’ seems to me to be a bit of a forgotten track, never really gaining the popular appeal afforded to other non-single tracks off the album like ‘Axe of Men’ or ’88 Seconds… and still counting’ that remained regular live tracks.
Hopefully ‘Section 3’ can help re-address the balance. Great tune, great version, straight in at number 1… with a bullet!
I must make reference to some of the other tracks, all of which have great moments; ‘Def Con Wan (sic)’ by E-Jitz has fantastic production and the addition of some great original sampling. Their video for this version is amazing, far surpassing anything PWEI ever put together.
‘Bulletproof’ by H.O.B.B.S has the addition of a different vocal melody based I think on Graham’s regular live (stolen) ad lib and this is a really cool.
‘Pretty Pretty’ by Meat TM has a fantastic ‘Jah Wobble’ type bass line, perhaps the best on the album. Immense production but can’t help being disappointed a vocal is not really introduced.
‘Back to Business’ by Overflowparking is cool. Love this, the simplicity and the general chaos and a voyage through time that you can almost taste. Cool with a capital K.
Finally, a special mention should go to ‘BronxZoo’ who I know is a big PWEI fan and regular ‘nation’ contributor. The sound quality, programming skill and his vocal performance is perhaps not to such a high technical standard as other contributions but it really reminds me of the first drafts or demos that Clint or Graham would put forward. In all seriousness this version of ‘PWEIzation’ would not be that different from the original demo Clint would first play to Graham, Rich and me and so for that reason it demands special mention and epitomises the spirit of Pop Will Eat Itself. So it’s a ‘yes’ from me. Nice work fella!
Can I just say thanks to all who have contributed to this compilation as well as to others who started a track but soon realised they didn’t have the nous to finish the tune to their desired standard. Special thanks to Paul aka ‘Payback 3000’ and to all ‘PWEI-nationers’ who keep the faith, spread the love and live the dream.
Here’s to ‘volume 2’!