Pop Will Eat Itself ‘Dos Dedos Mis Amigos / A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box (The Unreleased 1996 Album’ (Cherry Red)
The sixth and concluding Pop Will Eat Itself re-release from Cherry Red, and arguably the most anticipated for not only does this 2CD/LP collection produce the longest release title of the year, it also makes available for the first time the long lost 1996 album ‘Old Cassette Box’ which on the evidence within the grooves suggested that PWEI had the potential to challenge for the popular industrial crossover crown subsequently seized by The Prodigy who went on to fill stadiums across the globe and sell records by the millions.
The first disc ‘Dos Dedos Mis Amigos’ (Spanish; Two Fingers My Friends) was a tentative departure from the more traditional PWEI sound, the introduction of an industrial edge and the reduction in samples being an indicator of where front-man Clint Mansell saw his band heading; he was clearly not alone as this album was released in the USA via Trent Reznor’s Nothing label; spread across hit singles such as the driving rhythms of ‘Ich Bin Ein Auslander’ which railed against racism, and discrimination in general – a collaboration version with Asian group Fun-Da-Mental reached the UK Top 30, ‘RSVP’ works well, a strident track
The Poppies delivered a grittier, harsher, and at times reduced pace sound, not every track worked; ‘Fatman’ and ‘Underbelly’ being cases in point, despite repeat listens. What is clear is that PWEI were keen to develop their sound, to push boundaries; ‘Everything’s Cool’ being the clearest and most effective indicator of the industrial metal sound developing in the background – for that they should be respected despite the failings on a couple of these tracks. The album was self-produced, an act which itself hinted at the future career changes for Mansell who went onto become a film soundtrack arranger and Richard Marsh who went onto mix tracks for Bentley Rhythm Ace. The real draw for fans is the inclusion of ‘A Lick Of The Old Cassette Box’ previously known as ‘PWEI1986’
The history of this album is a bit strange and the fact that it became ‘lost’ is stranger still; don’t forget that off the back of ‘Dos Dedos Mis Amigos’ and the US deal with Nothing PWEI had toured the US with Nine Inch Nails, and tours of Australia etc were in the offing, the bands profile certainly on the international stage could not have been higher; having returned to the UK the band set about recording the follow up album, by this point Graham had become a father and opted not to play live with the band; the band in turn opted not to have him at all – clearly this would have a huge impact upon the bands trademark rap style vocals, the sole vocal duties now fell to Clint who was already bridled with the task of writing the next album.
So after 17yrs in the wilderness what do we actually get; well there twelve tracks, a mix of finished articles, demos, others early ideas all totally unreleased tunes; Opener ‘No Contest’ through to ‘Dehydration’ sound more like ‘lost’ NIN tracks, ‘Out Of Darkness…Cometh Light’ full of mechanised noise, it broods, but clearly needs finishing to reveal its full potential, ‘The Demon’ is a personal favourite and had me thinking I was listening to a Revolting Cocks bootleg, real power house built around a looping bass and minor keys with a skip full of sequenced noise piled on top, a version of this was subsequently released as a digital single on February 2, 2010 credited to Vileevils, a 3pc version of PWEI in disguise.
The ‘lost’ album is good, I’m just not sure its PWEI – I do not expect a band to remain within their established groove, and PWEI had already indicated where they were heading but this just sounds like they were trying too hard, they were understandably keen to crack the lucrative US industrial market, but I would suggest that in their efforts they may well have alienated their core fan base – that said it’s great to hear this album, it is full of ideas, of invention, it’s an insight into how PWEI may have and deserves to be released.
The entire package has been premastered and comes with an 8000 word essay from Adam Mole which at times is depressingly honest, as he recalls the internal struggles surrounding these recordings and the subsequent bankruptcy; the release providing a neat bookend to the bands entire recording career and a tantalising glimpse of just what might have been.