Pop Group back in action with ‘Citizen Zombie’ 

click to enlarge The Pop Group, a 1970s British punk band, has recorded its first new album in 35 years. - COURTESY  PHOTO
  • COURTESY PHOTO
  • The Pop Group, a 1970s British punk band, has recorded its first new album in 35 years.
For a while, it looked like The Pop Group – a British band formed by singer Mark Stewart in 1977, which splintered in 1981 after only three albums – might be relegated to the back pages of post-punk history. But that’s about to change. The band reformed for some festival dates in 2010, then oversaw last year’s reissuing of 1980’s “We Are Time” – plus a rarities collection called “Cabinet of Curiosities” – on the Freaks R Us label, which is also releasing “Citizen Zombie,” The Pop Group’s first new studio album in 35 years. “Basically, the gloves are off,” says Stewart, who is angrier than ever.

How do you view England these days?

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, there was this idea of caring conservatism. Before the second World War, England was basically feudal – there was no health service, no free education, and it took the Tommy Boys coming home from the trenches, saying, “We want our children to be educated, and we want free health service” to actually break the feudal system and establish a viable alternative left. But now caring conservatism has taken off its mask, and it’s the same as anywhere else – the super-rich are retreating to their castles and puling up the drawbridges, and it’s a scorched-earth policy. And a lot of people are just letting it happen and zoning out, and that’s the idea of “Citizen Zombie.” People are just zoning out into their social media or their entertainment machines and becoming digital slaves.

It’s all distraction, another form of consumerism, right?

Even punk people are becoming ultimate consumers! People who back in the day would have been reading fanzines are now talking about the latest software. They’ve become enslaved by the very thing that they thought they were protesting against, and they have this weird sense of entitlement. It’s hard to even get a reaction out of them – they’re robots. I’ll go into a bar and make some jokes, and all I get is, “Shhh!” They’re all on their machines!” They actually go in public to be absorbed by their machines now. I think the next generation will have no ears, but longer fingers to interact with their devices.

Will The Pop Group awaken the zombies?

That’s one of the points of the band reforming. There’s that saying, that it only takes good people to do nothing for evil to prevail. We’re doing things with different protest groups in England and Europe, and we want to stand up for the freaks and say, “Look, we’re still out here, we haven’t gone anywhere, and we’ve still got the same opinions.” We’re going to have our revenge, because we’re not stupid.

IF YOU GO

The Pop Group

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $29

Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com

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Tom Lanham

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