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The Pop Group / The Sexual Objects

02 ABC, Glasgow
Celtic Connections
Saturday January 18th
Four stars
It may have been thirty-three years since Mark Stewart and Gareth Sager's gang of punk-funk avant-provocateurs last played Glasgow, but it was more than worth the wait at this unlikely but inspired Celtic Connections show that laid bare the roots of Bristol's influential post-punk melting pot of free jazz, funk and dub.

The night also formed part of the twentieth anniversary of the similarly maverick Creeping Bent record label, hence the appearance of The Sexual Objects, the band formed by ex Fire Engine Davy Henderson following on from his previous band, The Nectarine No 9, with whom Pop Group guitarist Sager played and recorded with.

While all bar one of The Sexual Objects are time-served Nectarines, the SOBs opening gambit goes back even further, to Henderson and guitarist Simon Smeeton's post Fire Engines project, Win, with a cover of that band's heroic 'You've Got The Power'. Stripped of 1980s studio gloss, here the song more resembles the Velvet Underground on 'Live '69' breathing extra edge into a song that matches bassist and Creeping Bent supremo Douglas MacIntyre's Warhol-striped and be-shaded ensemble to boot.

This is followed by recent single, 'Feels Like Me' and a groovetastically louche preview of material from the SOBs' long-awaited second album. Songs like 'CC Blooms' casts Auld Reekie as its own self-mythologised Big Apple, while a prog-tastic instrumental wig-out reveals the SOBs as rock and roll animals at their glam-tastic peak.

With the opening squall of a synthesiser played by Sager with libertine abandon, The Pop Group launch into the opening 'We Are All Prostitutes' with the sort of deranged commitment that would scare most younger groups to death. Clutching his lyric sheets to his chest, Stewart looms righteously as he shrieks a form of warped Brechtian agit-prop into the microphone. Sager's slash and burn guitar-work and electronically treated clarinet playing are equally incendiary, no more so than on the band's still dangerous debut single, She Is Beyond Good and Evil.

For all the fervent soothsaying there's a warmth there too, which musically comes through the skewed fourth world rhythms of drummer Smith and bassist Dan Catsis, while a young second guitarist puts further flesh on the bones of necessary dissent. Stewart pays tribute to fellow travellers The Slits, whose late singer Ari Up's own last Glasgow appearance was on the same ABC 2 stage, and dedicates Colour Blind to Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis, another fallen contemporary.

Sager shows off some neat foot as well as fretwork on the warped Chicisms of 'Where There's A Will', while the closing 'We Are Time' possesses the urgency of a 1960s cop show theme before veering off somewhere darker to close a set designed to inspire a very visible form of insurrection. 

The List, January 2014

ends



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