02 ABC, Glasgow
Mark Stewart and Gareth Sager's reformed crew of original punk-funk provocateurs aren't an obvious choice for Celtic Connections. Then again, anyone who can mix up a multi-cultural stew of free jazz, dub and anti-capitalist agit-prop is more connected than most, as the Pop Group prove in their first Glasgow show for thirty-three years.
Tonight is also about celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the similarly eclectic Creeping Bent record label, and the evening begins with a set from The Sexual Objects, former Fire Engine Davy Henderson's latest groove-laden vehicle. Selections from their forthcoming second album are preceded by a magnificently audacious cover of You've Got The Power by Henderson's former band Win. Stripped of its 1980s production gloss, tonight it more resembles the Velvet Underground's What Goes On.
The Pop Group go one better with their opening clarion call of We Are All Prostitutes, as Stewart shrieks out his proclamations, towering over the crowd like a sniper, clutching his lyric sheets to his chest. Sager stabs out piercing guitar shards that take no prisoners, or else blows a strangled clarinet on the equally damning Thief of Fire. The sound is fleshed out by a youthful recruit on second guitar, with drummer Bruce Smith and bassist Dan Catsis providing the funk.
Stewart's prophecies of doom are nowhere better encapsulated than on the band's defining statement, She Is Beyond Good and Evil, which still sounds like the most dangerous song ever written. With Sager shimmying his way through a closing Where There's A Will and We Are Time, the end result is an incendiary call to arms and a soundtrack to a revolution you can dance to.
The Herald, January 20th 2014