“We want to thank our sponsors,” declared singer Mark Stewart during his closing round of dedications, “who are a Chinese mobile phone company.” Of course they aren’t, but there was a certain catharsis to hear these survivors from the days when accepting corporate hand-outs would destroy a band’s credibility as artists have a dig.
The Pop Group are an anachronism, a relic out of time in that sense. The Bristolian post-punk quintet, who reformed in 2010 following a 29-year split, are a thrilling pleasure, a wilful, viciously anti-corporate proposition of the kind which the mainstream music industry seems to shun these days.
In this context it was only slightly surprising to see them play their first Glasgow gig since 1980 as part of Celtic Connections, the ostensible roots festival which has of late broadened its remit to celebrate artists like Edinburgh’s Sexual Objects, whose frontman Davy Henderson (once of Fire Engines) was lured into music by the Pop Group’s example.
It’s easy to see why he was inspired, for even three decades on, songs like "We Are All Prostitutes", "Thief of Fire", "She is Beyond Good and Evil" and the thrilling climax "We Are Time" sound raw and uncompromising, a lurid form of bedsit disco-punk driven home by Stewart’s gruff roar and Gareth Sager’s jagged guitars. If only pop music really did sound like this.