When Pop Will Eat Itself first descended on the mid-’80s U.K. indie scene, they appeared a deeply unappealing proposition. With a name purloined from a joke headline in the NME and an unfortunate propensity for crassly sexist songs such as “Beaver Patrol,” they radiated an air of arch facetiousness. Nevertheless, they quickly put such puerile fixations behind them, signed to Trent Reznor’s Nothing label and enjoyed a degree of success in the U.S. before splitting in 1996.
A quarter of a century on, their “reunion” initially appears an inauspicious affair: With original band leader Clint Mansell having reinvented himself as an A-list Hollywood movie-soundtrack composer, only vocalist Graham Crabb remains from the original four-piece PWEI. Thankfully, Crabb has crafted a rollicking, rambunctious set of songs that rarely veer far from the Poppies’ ancient template of shredding guitars battling hip-hop rhythms, but which serve to remind us that, at their best, PWEI were both enormous fun and seriously underrated. It’s impossible for sample-heavy rap-rock pile-ups such as “Chaos & Mayhem,” “Mask” and “Equal Zero” to sound even remotely cutting-edge in 2011, but Crabb realises this limitation and works within it on enjoyably attitudinal noise workouts such as “Oldskool Cool” and “Wasted (Part 1),” which evoke memories of Public Image Ltd at their most acerbic. For a nostalgia trip, New Noise Designed By a Sadist is laudably edgy.