Paradise, the third record from Pop. 1280, doesn't celebrate the idea of utopia as much as it examines the concept's implausibility. The Brooklyn industrial punks venture far beyond the conventional realms of those terms, splicing squalid synthesizers and jackboot drum machines onto the same sort of grating squall it sharpened for 2013's The Imps of Perversion. Pop. 1280 evokes absurdist dread.
Lyrical gloom mirrors the totemic industrial drones, as vocalist Chris Bug unloads philippics against the ills of modern technology and the perceived dreams of our collective iPhone world. "Pain and pleasure won't last forever," he seethes during "Chromidia," implying that neither will those who feel them.
Winter storms that slammed into New York forced Pop. 1280 to reschedule the release show for Paradise, like a confirmation of the doomsday tidings it brings. But not long after the band at last hit the stage, Bug and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Lip spoke about the record's roots in public and personal darkness.
PARADISECHRIS BUG: It has a clear meaning for us—almost like hope and aggression at the same time. Like, maybe what's going on right now isn't good, but could it get better? It's hope, but it's a more cynical construction. Chances are we're not going to actually make society that much better. Maybe at our pace, we're going to destroy ourselves, whether it's with clubs or Obama's drone army.
IVAN LIP: For us, it's also very personal.
CB: If you look at the lyrics, more of the lyrics are about personal failures or observations—things we see on a daily basis. This isn't a big diatribe about mass shootings or iPhones or whatever. If there's something we're critiquing, then chances are it's something we're noticing in ourselves as much as the people we're critiquing.
TECHNOLOGYIL: We're definitely not anti-technology. Part of our frustration is our belief that the same energy that's put into figuring out how to make iPhones could be used for something else. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know what those things necessarily could be. But we think a lot about the romance of human exploration, like going to the moon. And that just fell by the wayside in the late seventies. Now we make rockets and drones instead.
CB: I think most intelligent people think the same way, but it doesn't seem like a topic people are hung up on. It's impossible to look at the moon landing and not think, "What the fuck are we doing?"
PARANOIACB: At least one or two of the songs definitely reference the NSA and wiretapping. Just the basic idea that Edward Snowden outlined—and he isn't the first person to come up with the panopticon—the idea that, if you're being surveilled, or even if there's a chance that you're being surveilled, it's going to change how free you are and the way you think about the world. I find it alienating and depressing to know that.
BOUNDARIESIL: The chances of us making a record that sounds like The Chieftains is pretty low.
CB: Well, now that you mention it...
INEVITABILITYIL: If you look back at human history, there's definitely an absurdist element. It seems like everything repeats in these cycles. And the only thing that really changes is technology. Technology changes, but how many times have civilizations come and gone and then rebuilt themselves over and over again? I'm not sure that I'm convinced what we have is not going to be over in five hundred or six hundred years.
CB: And I think about that in art, too, a lot: "Does what we're doing matter?" And, in general, I think we approach our music as art, and that makes me feel not as insignificant.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Abandoning Eden"