Minny Pops - Live at the Melkweg, 19-03-1981

That’s what we are all asked to do in this modern world: plug in, leave a message, and turn off. Minny Pops just sound-tracked and defined this feeling before most others did.

 

LTM Recordings http://www.minnypops.com

 

 

Minny Pops’ sound is a haunting one, at times simple and direct, often brutally so.  Balancing Wally Middendorp’s bleak and confrontational poems with walls of guitar squall and minimal synth lines always seemed to be an experiment in the moment itself and with that in mind you can sympathise with Middendorp’s intention of never wanting to be a “band”. Listening back, there’s also a toy-like quality at times to Minny Pops’ music: it has a lot to do with the drum machine sound that’s for sure, as you never get the feeling of a band playing in the traditional sense.  There’s no sense anywhere on this release of the band attempting to celebrate a community with the audience or generate the feeling of oneness that gigs can create, or of trying to entertain, even. The tracks appear and then suddenly disappear leaving no emotional memory.  

As such there’s always a sense of dislocation in this music; incidentally something which suited 1981’s cultural landscape very well. Rather, on this evidence they sound –like a number of the other Dutch bands of that period -like a (sinister) scale model of a band. A quirky, strange, non-musical take on what a band should be, which (as we see now with the slew of bedroom electronica/glitchcore) can be very, very effective indeed, visionary even.  And in that tracks like Lights and Trance have more in common with the weird world Cluster inhabited round Zueckerzeit or the strange musical games people like Toulouse Low Tax or Spoelstra play in this century. Tracks like Mental and Jets are also more like imaginary film soundtracks (from films only dreamt up in bedrooms) than standard electro pop.  Sometimes the music is more like a presentation of feelings than songs proper: the CD opener, Wong is a growl that seems to live an electronic stew of its own making and Kogel creates a very effective mood without really fancying going anywhere at all. Elsewhere, Blue Roses shares the electrobeat of Simple Minds’ Celebrate but never broadens out into being a performance, content rather to backdrop one of Wally’s apocalyptic visions, The same can be said for Time and Island on this CD: strange pop songs, blessed with a melody and beat and a vision you can buy into but ones that you can’t dance to. 

Because on this evidence, Minny Pops don’t sound like a band playing a live gig, the LP this CD serves as a very good listen. There’s no pressure to share or regret the moment of its recording. It’s a pretty tremendous listen if you can buy into the concept. But then that’s what we are all asked to do in this modern world: plug in, leave a message, and turn off. Minny Pops just sound-tracked and defined this feeling before most others did.

This is a CD released with a very entertaining DVD (culled from US and NL gigs) to celebrate a brief return for Minny Pops as a live act in 2012, (details of that tour here) and this gig is (I think) one of the last ones they did before retiring to the studio.