Unlike the uptight grooves of their ’70s post-punk peers Gang of Four, the Pop Group, led by Mark Stewart, always sounded like they spent actual time immersed in the raucous vibe on P-Funk albums, absorbing the ambience instead of stripping the sound for parts.
“Singer”/ranter Stewart and his Bristol crew didn’t have GoF’s way with a melody, but as Cabinet of Curiosities, an odds ‘n’ sods collection of singles and live tracks, demonstrates, that wasn’t really the point: They threw sounds together — funk guitar, disco drums, timbales, shouts about the nature of reality — to see what stuck or what didn’t. Bands like !!! and LCD Soundsystem come straight out of singles like “She is Beyond Good” and especially “Where There’s a Will.” Abstraction takes over (not necessarily for the better) on the obtuse “Amnestry Report III,” but choppy grooves are the rule, not the exception. Word has it they have reformed for shows and maybe a new album. Can they top, say, the chaotic thrill that rushes out of the Peel session version of their classic “We Are Time?” Unlikely, but since Stewart and co. were always interested in what was next, the set makes one curious to hear them try.