Hot off the heels of releasing their first album of new music in 35 years (2015’s surprisingly strong “Citizen Zombie”), the Pop Group has given us a real treat – a live album recorded during their 1979/1980 European run in support of the earth-shattering “How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?”” (itself reissued late last year). Officially categorized by the band as a “bootleg” (and the sometimes muffled sound certainly makes one think of clandestinely-traded white label boots that used to circulate via some of our finer record shops and catalogs), “The Boys Whose Head Exploded” makes you feel like yours is doing that. Captured during their feral prime, the clanging beautiful mess of their live show comes bleeding out of your speakers via these nine tracks. There is something so incredibly right and poignant to our moment in political time right now about Mark Stewart caterwauling out “Our children shall rise up against us / Because we are the ones to blame!”
And above and beyond the almighty din, that’s probably why the Pop Group continue to be so germane – their trenchant poking and prodding of Thatcher-era U.K. culture and standing up for causes of justice mirror our own time in which we find ourselves questioning the role of the “people” in our own political ecosystem. The fractured funk of “Shake the Foundations” and “There Are No Spectators’” skeletal groove show exactly why John Lydon was so interested in Bruce Smith being a continued part of the P.i.L experience – his tribal patterns and polyrhythms perfectly accentuate the paranoia in Stewart’s lyrics and vocals. Far too short at 41 minutes, the album is a thrilling snapshot of a band at their incendiary best.