Replicas is the handle we use to write about reissues, offering some thoughts on the original release, and whether or not there’s enough goodies to warrant a repurchase if you own a previous version of the album. This time we revisit a seminal 90s album by some Brit sample rockers, including a some as yet unheard vintage material…
Pop Will Eat Itself
Dos Dedos Mis Amigos/A Lick of the Old Cassette Box
What is it? The last Poppies album featuring Clint Mansell (and their final album full stop before Graham Crabb formed a whole new line-up for 2011’s New Noise Designed by a Sadist occupies an unusual place in the PWEI discography. Thanks to a cosign from Trent Reznor, whose Nothing Records released the record stateside, it’s by far the most heard LP from Pop Will Eat Itself, while arguably having the least in common with everything they had done up ’til that point. The tightening of laws relating to sampling and a move towards full-on industrial rock commensurate with the push they were getting from Interscope certainly set it apart, although one could argue that the cynicism and paranoia seeded as far back as 1990’s The Cure for Sanity coming to full bloom is the definitive factor in what makes Dos Dedos so distinct. The Poppies have always been a bit more serious than they were willing to let on, but there’s few traces of the fun loving grebo-gurus here.
Musically, the album stands up quite well some 19 years on. While the use of breakbeats occasionally feels a bit dated (“Menofearthereaper” and “Familus Horribilus” specifically), the marriage of guitar chug and electronics is as fluid as ever. Pop Will Eat Itself were always students of the almighty groove, and whether on the slow-rolling “Underbelly”, the choppy punky-funk of “R.S.V.P.” or the druggy psychedelia of “Babylon”, PWEI are always deep in the pocket. That willingness to be funky is a trait that sets the album apart from so many other notable industrial rock records of the time. Massive single “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” is as stirring as ever, although with the benefit of history it’s kind of surprising that the comparable “Everything’s Cool” hasn’t been as canonized, the effective sampling of Ministry’s “Thieves” and acerbically delivered chorus are as bracing as “Auslander”, and is free of that song’s near 20 years of scene playlist abuse. It’s a far angrier and more apprehensive record than anything Pop Will Eat Itself had ever done, but it’s still unmistakably them, and a standout for the era.
What’s on this reissue? Compared to the massive number of b-sides and demos that have been the hallmark of Cherry Red’s PWEI reissue campaign until now, Dos Dedos is a bit less stacked. You get the Die Krupps remix of “Auslander”, a demo of “Kick to Kill” and a couple of b-sides: not exactly a king’s bounty when you consider the sheer amount of ancillary material that accompanied the record (including a full remix LP, 1995’s Two Fingers My Friends).
The real draw here is the inclusion of A Lick of the Old Cassette Box, an record’s worth of demos recorded for a follow up LP and was derailed by the disintegration of the band (a story outlined in depressing detail in liner notes by guitarist Adam Mole). The label had been touting it as a lost album, although that’s a bit of a stretch; the songs on Cassete Box are fully formed but still pretty rough around the edges, with production often notable for it’s absence. That’s to be expected considering the nature of the release, although those expecting a complete record sealed in amber since 1996 may be a bit put off.
Still, there are some undeniably cool tunes here, finished or not. “I Am the One” and “100% is Shit” feel like an extension of Dos Dedos‘ guitar-heavy ethos, while the mostly instrumental “1-800 Outsider” and the heavily composed “I’m Gonna Get Ya Baby” point handily towards Clint Mansell’s future endeavours in film scoring. It’s also quite cool to hear a version of “The Demon”, a song that eventually saw the light of day as a single release in 2010 by Vilevils, the shortlived Pop Will Eat Itself spin-off that presaged the recent Crabb formation. None of these songs are absolutely essential for casuals, but will hold no small amount of interest for fans who have been waiting with bated breath for them to surface.
Who should buy it? Die-hards will likely already have had their copy for some months now, so I suppose this question comes down to how big a fan of PWEI you have to be to really appreciate the reissue, especially if you own the original release. If you know you like the album you could do far worse than to purchase this 2-CD purely for A Lick of the Old Cassette Box: leaving aside any historical curiosity relating to what might have been, it’s 12 whole cuts you’ve not heard in this form. As a coda for the band’s classic line-up and a capper for what’s been a corker of reissue campaign you couldn’t ask for much more, few collections can claim to provide a document of the past and a wholly new experience under the same roof.