Pop Will Eat Itself, Sept 10 Corner Hotel

“This Is the Day…This Is the Hour…This Is This!” was quite an amazing album in 1989 bringing Pop Will Eat Itself out of its niche and setting them up for several years of commercial success. It captured so much of the cutting edge of popular culture at the time through the eyes of grebo sensibilities, a glorious melange of alternative post-punk sounds with hip hop. It made perfect sense of course, that a thirtieth-anniversary tour would perform but because of particular circumstances of our modern-day plague restrictions, it is not until 2022 that PWEI could be brought to Australia after multiple cancellations.

Your reviewer caught the tail-end of the initial support band, or rather individual, in the form of Chris Dubrow of iNsuRge. A rather impressive local industrial band of the 90s, the cover of Goanna’s “Solid Rock” and the band’s most famous single, “Political Prisoners” were both well-performed, albeit with too much volume distortion on the part of the mixer. It was, alas, a sign of things to come. For the venue was The Corner in Richmond, a place famous for receiving many prime acts and with a very hit-and-miss success rate for sound quality, and this night it was surely a miss.

The main support act was Snog, an industrial band whose anti-corporate message of the 1990s has transmogrified into a contemporary anti-vaccination and anti-mask message which would find itself at home with any number of meth-cooked conspiracy theory incapable of discerning their own incompetence in evaluating scientific research. The customing and stage show were fine enough, but the sound was again, just awful with the worst rendition of “Corporate Slave” I have ever heard them perform. There was visible discomfort among audience members as the band sang of the virtues of the “pure bloods”, the phrase being used by contemporary Nazis to entice anti-vaxxers. Perhaps the only highlight was the largely instrumental final track, “Shop” which came across quite smoothly.

But the highlight of the evening was certainly for the Poppies as the roar of an enthusiastic crowd greeted them. Whilst it is true that this is not the same PWEI that originally performed “This Is the Day…This Is the Hour…This Is This!” more than thirty years ago (with the exception of vocalist Graham Crabb), that did not blunt anyone’s welcome. Whilst starting with the recorded introduction of “The Incredible P.W.E.I. vs. the Moral Majority” (technically from the subsequent album, “Cure for Sanity”), the band followed the album to the letter, and what an album it is; from beginning to end “This Is The Day …” is one solid track after another with the passion of “Wise Up! Sucker”, the cultural sensibilities of “Can U Dig It?”, the threatening and yet vivid “Def. Con. One”, the speed and deadly euphoria of “Satellite Ecstatica”, and finally to the Blade Runner-inspired finale, “Wake Up! Time to Die”.

Unsurprisingly, the attendees loved the performance. But, it has to be said, it sounded terrible. This is not the first time that there has been such an experience at this venue (The Buzzcocks and The Sisters of Mercy were also well below par, but not nearly as bad as this). Yet, at other times, it’s been just fine (Peter Hook and The Light, The Chameleons). The theory of why this is the case is still subject to some debate; whether it is poor mixing or the rather acoustically unfriendly room layout. Suggestions of picking a particular location for improved quality just did not work in this case. The band did perform a fairly extensive encore, including “Dance of the Mad Bastards”, “Everything’s Cool”, “Ich bin ein Ausländer” and more, but by then it was too late (“Everything’s Cool” was especially bad). It really has reached the point if a band is playing at The Corner it is best not to take the risk of what can too easily be another disappointing evening.

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