Song of the Day: Pop Will Eat Itself “Def Con One”
Cheeky UK industrial act, Pop Will Eat Itself, were one of the first UK acts to grasp the power of samples and made a career out of pop culture cannibalism. The group’s name says it all. Not only did PWEI pull together both high and low culture samples (culled from pop tunes, films, tv commercials, you name it), but the band’s lyrics, delivered by singer/ drummer Graham Crabb, were also a mish-mash of pop culture references with nods to everything from the graphic novels of Alan Moore to McDonalds. Crabb always also opted for a slightly subversive tone, with the net result was a kind of turbocharged version of culture jamming that you can dance to.
“Def Con One” was probably PWEI‘s most successful single, both musically and lyrically. The song details consumer culture on the brink with the potential for nuclear annihilation looming. Released in 1988 at the end of the Reagan era, the song mixes turntablism, crunching industrial guitars, and lifts including the riff from “Funkytown”, The Twilight Zone theme tune, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges and even The Osmonds, among others. The music video was also a kaleidoscope of images and quick cuts. This is pop music as cultural collage where any piece of culture is fair game in roughly any context. While listening to the band’s work can border on sensory overload, it is indisputable that (much like their peers, The KLF) they really had something there.