PoP Campaign – Dead Dark
PoP Campaign are back with Dead Dark, their new album of synth pop. This flaunts their dislike of the current Tory government and, perhaps as a consequence, the music also takes a darker, more ambient, turn. The tracks here are less obviously or perkily aimed at the dance floor. For lovers of mood ambient and a glass of red wine.
The album opens with a statement of intent in Feart. This is isn’t so much a track as an overture. A deliberately provocative stance, given that Feart is a Scottish word meaning afraid. Pop Against Fascism is an oddly hopeful track, as with so much of PoP Campaign’s work, containing echoes of Depeche Mode’s New Life.
I asked them what was the aim of the album?
Dead Dark is our fourth album and it explores the depths of the human psyche and the limits that people are
driven to. Having lived in London for the past 3 1/2 years we are fascinated by the history of the city and the secrets it must carry within it. We are particularly drawn to the dark side of Victoriana and murky characters like Jack The Ripper, set in a misty landscape of the city we call home. We have channelled all these elements into this record.
Twatting A Tory is next. This was produced for the Touched project. If anyone’s unfamiliar with UK argot, ‘twatting’ in this sense means to hit or beat. This is a darker piece of synth work, as if they’ve skipped forward to Violator. Offering more hope is A Kill’t A Boy. This is wonky synth pop of a glamorous shape.
I asked them ‘You clearly don’t like the Tories, as a Scot where are you on the SNP?’
Only one of us is Scottish. Whilst we think the SNP have done some good things for Scotland (free prescriptions, securing free further education) and have some valid stances (anti-Trident), they are not the great left force many in Scotland feel they are. Essentially, they are a populist party and have just moved with public opinion. At their heart though still lies a pro-Business, pro-capitalist, pro-fossil fuel heart. Not the answer.
VILLAIN offers dreamy synth threats, softly spoken. Berlin ’92 comes closest to more traditional techno sounds, with stronger drums and a martial air. Synths still bubble to the foreground. Total and Utter Nightmare provides the album’s first misstep. It’s a drones synth sound that doesn’t really go anywhere. A nightmare best kept private, perhaps. Victorian London is a mood piece, with barely there sawing synths for a particularly dark scene of Ripper Street.
I asked them about the future?
This is the first time we’ve done a record for another label and that opens us up to a new audience which is great. It’s a label which has put out tracks from some acts we admire (Orbital, Autechre, Plaid, Nathan Fake) which is immense. On top of that, the cause is obviously very worthwhile and we are glad to be a part of helping it. Moving forward, who knows? When we formed, we had no grand plans and since then we played in Korea, Japan and all over Europe. We just keep making music and playing shows that excite us.
Glasgow Style provides the album’s highlight. A largely optimistic piece, this carries us along on uplifting sounds but with a hint of melancholy. Dracula Unleashed reverts to an early 80s synth sound of Sheffield, with a bit of a nod to early Human League. Time Burglar is another soundtrack piece, that drifts along happily. The album ends, curiously, with My Boyfriend, The Depressant. The reference to Plaid in the answer above provides a point of reference for this track with its combination of ambient and wonky electronics. And so the album drifts to a close. There’s a totality and coherence to the album that’s charming and its cinematic scope is appealing. I worry though about the lack of hooks to appeal to those who may have liked their previous efforts.