April 12, 2024

“Middle-aged white men rapping”: a review of Pop Will Eat Itself.


An immediate curiosity swept over me as they walked on stage: “how did they get Micky Flannagan to make a guest appearance?” This feeling was dulled as I realised it was actually frontman Graham Crabb looking older than I remember, and nothing they did surpassed my initial interest.

Pop Will Eat Itself, or PWIE, have changed their music style quite significantly throughout their history, and the greatest hits set at Manchester’s Gigantic Indie All Dayer Vol. 2 offered a solid overview. What seemed to be their most obvious signature throughout was the pseudo-metal guitars, which in parts afforded them a catchy Rage Against the Machine kind of vibe. This similarity was intensified by the agitated rapping of Crabb, the sole surviving original member, who also brought along a megaphone to shout into – for some reason or other.

Crabb was keen to show that ambiguous political patter is still a significant part of the band’s identity. Throughout he made bizarre interruptions to the set to convey his beliefs. “We’re here to lift the gloom of the election result”, he exclaimed a few songs in, to what was a seemingly indifferent crowd. His most notable outburst, however, was “if you’re a racist, you can f*ck off, ‘cause we don’t do racism.” While I’m sure this is agreeable to most people, again the majority of the crowd remained unmoved, perhaps being too perplexed by the band’s character to really get on board.

The section of the crowd which seemed most fervent in their endorsement were clearly the band’s hardcore following. Before I talk about them, let me first note that harmlessly expressing our own tastes is key for the development of a multicultural society. That being said, it’s just a bit weird when a guy looking exactly like The Joker is not an oddity amongst a group of people. Even though most others had dreads instead of green hair, his outlandish attire made him fit right in. Though, admittedly, he was set apart by being the only one attempting to mosh whilst eating a Cornish pasty. Unfortunately enough for PWIE, watching this guy was as entertaining as watching them perform, and it looked like everyone who wasn’t there to see them in particular would have agreed.

I can’t deny that I wasn’t keen on the music. At its essence it was middle-aged chubby (sorry guys) white men rapping to a bed of industrial pop. There’s just something disagreeable about that mix and its presence at a gig headlined by the much more mellow Echo and the Bunnymen. Yet while it wasn’t my cup of tea, clearly a solid chunk of the crowd were having an amazing time, and it had given them a chance to be among people with similar bizarre tastes. Frankly, I doubt playing greatest hits sets is a standalone way for the band to earn an outstanding living, which makes me thing they were playing more out of passion than a desire for cash. So, even though I didn’t really enjoy their performance and wouldn’t necessarily want to hang out with some of their fans, it was nice to see they’d found their niche.

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