Rhino Records in the UK last year reissued The Pop Group's debut disc "Y" and it finally arrived in my iTunes today. It's been years since I heard this 1979 record by one of the best bands to emerge from Bristol, pre-Massive Attack.
Lead singer Mark Stewart later made a string of great records for Adrian Sherwood's On-U Sound, other members formed Rip, Rig & Panic -- which featured a young Neneh Cherry -- and Pigbag. But first, The Pop Group -- certainly there's irony in the name -- would lay the groundwork for the Bristol revolution of the '90s by mixing post-punk with funk, reggae, free jazz and an experimental fervor.
"Y" starts out with the band's debut single, "She is Beyond Good and Evil," a proto-Pigbag quirky funk number, but it's only on the edge of holding together and you can't miss the immediacy that set it apart from the crowd.
Produced by legendary British reggae bassist and producer Dennis Bovell, "Y" is a crazy mix of everything good that the early '80s had to offer.
"We Are Time" predates the first Birthday Party record (although it came out the same year as The Boys Next Door LP) but sounds remarkably similar. There's the funk of "Good and Evil" and "Snowgirl" has that dubby freak-out vibe that made The Slits so lovable.
This reissue has photos, an essay, lyrics and a bonus track (the b-side of "Good and Evil"). Let's hope reissues of the band's two other discs are coming, too.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.