Sixteen Different Flavours of PWEI – ICA

I’ve admired all the ICAs over the years and read the majority. I was going to do one on Weatherall but Swiss Adam beat me to it (and, frankly, did a better job than I would have done). But it’s rankled that the spread of artists has left out one of the most successful acts from that fertile period of the late 80s through to the mid-90s. I talk of the mighty Pop Will Eat Itself (hereinafter PWEI). This ICA has been two years in the making, hoping that someone else would remember their glittering brilliance. I can wait no longer. If no-one else it going to do it properly then I’m going to have a half-arsed go at it.

PWEI seem unfairly airbrushed out of UK pop history. They were never cool. But they were better than many (Hello, The Fall). They had 11 Top 40 UK hits in the period 1989-1994. Fundamentally, they were fun and raucous but capable of striking an unexpectedly political note. This ICA is a double album. 16 tracks (14 on the regular LP and an extra two on the remix 12″) in honour of their Sixteen Different Flavours of Hell track, which was also the name of their 1993 compilation album.

PWEI, originally Wild And Wandering, started in the mid-80s and their members included Clint Mansell, Graham Crabb, Adam Mole and Richard Marsh. They were famously named after a phrase in a David Quantick review in NME of Jamie Wednesday (who would go on to become Carter (The Unstoppable Sex Machine)). On with the music…

Side One

1. Def Con One 7″ Mix (from Feasting Frenzy)

A kinda chronological set of hits on this side. But starting with their final single before breaking into the Top 40. The Poppies’ early work had been indie racket, Grebo and a bit of a mess. The less said about Beaver Patrol the better. But then they clearly had a bit of an epiphany with The Beasties Boys and gleefully grabbed onto the hip hop sampling with guitars that defines their best work. Starting with scratching and a sample this blasts us into orbit with their party vibes and adoption of popular culture icons, with the chanting of “gimme Big Mac and fries to go.” I should admit that for many. many years I misheard it as “Big Mac and the price of gold.”

2. Can U Dig It? (from This Is The Hour… This Is The Day… This is This)

More party vibes here. Lots of rocky guitar and lyrics that are a list of all good things. These include AC/DC, Twilight Zone, Optimus Prime, Run DMC, Terminator, Hit The North and “Alan Moore knows the score.” In the wrong hands this could be a drunken closing time singalong. But it’s way more fun than that and the selection shows a balance between low brow and high brow.

3. Wise Up! Sucker (taken from This is The Hour… This is the Day… This is This!)

Although this follows the guitars and samples of Can U Dig It? it’s a sort of love song to lost love. The chorus of “She Loves Me. She Loves Me Not” It’s also where the Sixteen Different Flavours of Hell lyric comes from. But the angry title is also a warning. All very blokish, yes. But great nonetheless.

4. Touched By The Hand of Cicciolina – The Incredi-Bull Mix

Ahead of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, they released this cracking track that showed a different style. There’s still hip hop here. The title steals from New Order and references Italian pornstar Ilona Staller. But it also takes in dub and in this version dispenses with shouty lyrics altogether in favour of something that should have been used as the theme music for the ITV World Cup goals show reel. Sadly, that was not to be. The Bull in the title is a reference to their West Midlands roots, support for Wolves legend Steve Bull.

5. Dance of the Mad Bastards (taken from Cure For Sanity)

The shoutiness returns on this track but there are funky drummer breaks, funk bass and a greater sense of space and self-confidence. I’ve always assumed the “get Up And Get On It” is Lemmy from Motorhead. But I don’t really know. This track also marks their move from hip hop into the fringes of house. They would get closer still but never quite gave up their fondness for industrial and axe attacks.

6. X, Y and Zee (taken from Cure For Sanity)

This track from 1991 and the successor 92° mark the closest they got to house music. But it’s also a more obviously political track. Hidden among the pop culture references to George Jetson is an environmental and unity theme.

7. 92° (The Third Degree) – Boilerhouse “The Birth Mix”

This starts off with that optimistic house staple the choppy house piano that sets a lighter than usual musical tone. There’s talk of a “hardcore dance floor.” And in a UK that was getting more house obsessed by 1991 this got to #23 in the Charts. Proper wave your hands in the air stuff.

8. Karmadrome (taken from The Looks or The Lifestyle?)

This 1992 track ends side 1. It also marks a step back from house music and back towards hip hop and industrial guitars. But it also has the most wonderful choir chorus of the title, starting at 0:50. As they say, “The Power Exists in Everyone.”

Side 2

9. PWEIzation (taken from Very Metal Noise Pollution EP)

Side 2 is more of a delve across the PWEI archives. And it seemed fitting to start with this tune that seemed almost like a theme track. This offers a rallying cry, to keep watching the skies. A signal to cure isolation. Sirens wail, guitars tumble and beats clatter around in wild abandon.

10. Not Now James. We’re Busy (taken from This is The Hour… This is the Day… This is This!)

A paean to James Brown. But with the Poppies usual undercutting humour he isn’t allowed a look in. Whenever JB wants to “get up and do my thang” he’s told “Not now James, we’re busy.” In actuality the track is based around James Brown’s arrest and jailing in 1988 following a car chase that started in Georgia, went through South Carolina before returning to Georgia, where he was arrested.

11. Ich Bin Ein Auslander (taken from Dos Degos Mis Amidos)

A turn for the straightforwardly political. A track that asks us to face attitudes in England towards immigration and identifies with the other. It talks of the “rise of the right” and shows that today’s Stormzy controversy is nothing new. The track takes Eastern instruments and a load of Led Zep samples to produce probably their most powerful track. Musically works today, politically still sadly works today.

12. Bulletproof! (taken from The Looks or the Lifestyle?)

After that, something lighter. Is Everybody Happy? The young and invincible sounds of Bulletproof! More singalong choruses than you could shake a stick at and even plenty of “yeah, a-ha” for the terminally stupefied.

13. Eat Me Drink Me Dub Me Kill Me

Although the title As the album starts to wind down a bit of Lewis Carrol referencing in the title to this track. Alice is absent but what you do get is a dubbed out version of this track from 1992. The beats do sound a bit dated in places but the Ofra Haza sample and thundering bass drum dub save it. It’s a bit of contemplation of mortality with its references to Belushi and private hell.

14. Reclaim The Game – Funk FIFA

Although PWEI disbanded in 1995 (despite a brief reformation in 2005) there is a Pop Will Eat Itself going today. They are clear that they’re a different band, despite having a couple of original members. But they’re not out of ideas. This funky Brazilian influenced attack on FIFA’s management of the beautiful game stands up alongside anything from their heyday.

Remix 12″

Side A.

Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies! – Part Man Part Machine

Graham Crabb had a career as Golden Claw Music producing serious ambient sounds after PWEI folded. This wandering 14 minute ambient remix of PWEI’s only top 10 hit shows that this was some time in the gestation. It’s an industrial ambient track full of alien menace and waves on the shore.

Side B.

Cape Connection – Transglobal Underground Cossack In UFO Encounter Confusion (taken from Two Fingers My Friends!)

Before they disbanded PWEI released a double album of remixes from which this track is taken. It ranks among their finest. And this is the standout track. PWEI’s guitars are set far back. World Music Beats and tablas are brought to the forefront, with the most enormous bass drum. All topped off with a Russian choir. What more could you ask for? Play loud. Very loud.

PWEI were pop stalwarts that never got the credit they deserved. Their more serious moments didn’t get fully acknowledged. But for a singalong party they can’t be bettered.

PWEI ICA, a playlist by acidtedblog on Spotify : A playlist featuring Pop Will Eat Itself


JC adds……

This dropped in to me over the Festive period.  It put a huge smile on my face as acidted has been my longest-serving guest contributor – it was the fact that so many of his efforts were wiped out by Google when they took the old blog that got me particularly angry.

He was also the first non-Glasgow blogger I ever met face-to-face – way back in October 2009 when I was down in London to watch the Tampa Bay Buccanners get thrashed by the New England Patriots – and to my eternal shame we haven’t managed to get together in person since that Sunday morning. But we have stayed in touch by e-mail over the years – and I will always be in his debt for the times he stepped in to keep TVV up and running when personal circumstances meant I had to take a couple of extended breaks in 2010 and 2011.

PWEI were on my list of ‘must-do’ ICAs.  I’ve written preciously about some of the songs in this amazing compilation and there’s a number of others that I would have included in a future effort; however, I wouldn’t have been able to bring you Reclaim The Game or Cape Connection as I wasn’t aware of them until now.

Thanks mate.   Hugely appreciated.

Oh, and there’s a few more equally wonderful guest ICAs coming up over the next few weeks, all of which I’ve been sitting on for months.  Cheers to the contributors for their patience and understanding.


If you happen to use a similar browser as mine then underneath this bit of text is Pop Will Eat Itself while the right hand image is Mock Turtles.



In 1989, the grebo/crusty combo finally cracked the Top 40 at the sixth attempt with this:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It? (extended mix)

In 1991, the indie/baggy combo enjoyed a #18 hit with this:-

mp3 : Mock Turtles – Can You Dig It? (extended mix)

Totally different songs by totally different bands but which I bet are often mixed-up in pub quizzes.

And getting down to it boppers, I’m in the PWEI camp in terms of preference, albeit it’s not among their greatest 45s. Mock Turtles is just a wee bit too samey as so many other songs by so many other bands of the same era.



Pop Will Eat Itself were  far more successful than my memory told me. I had always thought of them as a sort of cult act who deserved more success than they ever achieved. But doing a little bit of research shows up that twelve of their singles made the UK Top 50, with the fabulous Get The Girl, Kill The Baddies going Top 10 in 1993.

Today’s offering was released in 1990 just before the World Cup that was held that year in Italy. I love how the cover has the flags of all 16 finalists around a football, and the fact the record is described as a 30cm single and not a 12″ single as a nod to Europeanism.

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Touched By The Hand of Cicciolina (Extra Time Mix)

The official song for the England World Cup squad that year was World In Motion by New Order, while the other big hit was the operatic tune that BBC-TV used for its coverage, Nessun Dorma sung by Luciano Pavarotti.

All in all, a good World Cup for music. Such a pity the tournament itself is widely regarded as the worst in history since it began in 1930.

Here’s the b-sides of the 30cm single:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Touched By The Hand of Cicciolina
mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Touched By The Hand of Cicciolina (Incredi-Bull Mix)

The latter was a nod to this footballer, much loved by many a pop singer from the Black Country.

Cicciolina, for those who don’t know was an Italian porn star.  At the previous World Cup, England had been knocked out after a controversial goal by Diego Maradona who later claimed it was ‘The Hand of God’ who had scored it and not him. I still laugh at the commentary from various football matches sounding as if there are multiple orgasms a-plenty.

Scotland made the finals in 1990 (and have only done so once since in 1998).  While England made the semi-final, we came home just about first after losing to Costa Rica, beating Sweden and then losing a late goal to Brazil when a draw would have seen us get out of the group.  Our song was honking….

mp3 : The Scottish World Cup Squad & Friends – Say It With Pride






The next two weeks in this series will feature bands who reinvented themselves during their career and in doing so caught a lot of people, fans and critics alike, by surprise.

Pop Will Eat Itself had been kicking around for some five years prior to the release of their first material in 1986. They had, like many other new and emerging combos, gone through various line-ups in an effort to find the right formula, eventually settling on Clint Mansell (vocals/guitar), Adam Mole (keyboards), Graham Crabb (drums) and Richard Marsh (bass). Their first release was a self-produced EP called The Poppies Say Grrr…. which would be the one and only release on the magnificently named Desperate Records.

They then signed to Chapter 22 Records and went into the studio to record a second EP, Poppiecock, which was released in October 1986. The lead track was the song chosen for inclusion on the CD86 compilation which has formed the basis for this particular series:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – The Black Country Chainsaw Massacreee

The Black Country incidentally, for those who might not be aware, is the name given to the part of England the band came from….just in case anyone thought the band were being racist.

Oh and the above is the correct title of the song.  It is incorrectly listed on CD86 as The Black Country Chainsaw Massacre.  Those two extra ‘e’s at the end are important!!

All five tracks were short and sharp – none of them reached the two-minute mark – and were derivative of an indie-guitar post-punk pop sound. They were OK at what they did but they didn’t really stand out from the crowd. Their next release was a covers EP after which, in early 1987 there began a revolutionary evolution in their sound which coincided with Graham Crabb ditching the drums to become a co-vocalist and being replaced by a machine with an increasing reliance on sampling and the incorporation of hip-hop which was just beginning to increase in popularity here in the UK.

By 1988, the band’s sound had changed completely as evidenced by their first single of that year, Def Con One, which fused a range of genres while sampling a range of tunes by acts as diverse as 70s teenyboppers The Osmonds, punk gods The Stooges, novelty disco act Lipps Inc and not forgetting the theme tune from cult TV show The Twilight Zone. Follow up single Can U Dig It? followed a similar groove and took the band into the charts for the first time, beginning a run of twelve Top 40 hits over the next five years and a move to major label in the shape of RCA in 1989.

Their departure from RCA in 1993 was a strange affair in that singles lifted from their final album for that label went on to be hits which enabled the band to sign with Infectious Records (set up by a former RCA executive) for their final hurrah in 1994/5.

Their initial ten years in the music business had yielded a fair bit of success and they were always a crackingly energetic live act, hugely popular on the festival circuit thanks to their no-nonsense, high-octane and fast-paced performances. But based on the early material,including the track used on CD86, nobody could ever have imagine that’s how it would turn out. Here’s the other tracks from Poppiecock:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Monogamy
mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Oh Grebo, I Think I Love You
mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Titanic Clown
mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – B-B-B-Breakdown

Incidentally, every PWEI song was credited to Vestan Pance which was a pseudonym for the band as a whole although most of the tracks were written by either Graham Crabb or Clint Mansell.

The band reformed in 2005 and have continued to perform and record on an on-and-off basis ever since, albeit only Graham Crabb from the orignal line-up is part of the current set-up.





In 1994 I went to see Pop Will Eat Itself in Leeds, they were on tour promoting their latest album, I forget what it was called, it’s not really relevant to be honest. I got there early because Ash were also on the bill and I really wanted to see them as well. I was alone – my mates were all turning up a bit later and we’d made a half arsed plan to meet by the Merch stall around 8pm. The hall was about one third full – mainly full of kids awaiting Ash – everyone else was either not there or in the bar.

I got myself a pint and ambled down to the stage area. A bloke was on stage tuning a guitar and doing the “1,2, 1,2 Check” thing that they do. I remember briefly speaking to a lad I knew who dressed head to foot in Poppies gear. Then the lights went off and the opening bars of “Info Freako” by Jesus Jones blared out – and two minutes later four guys ambled onto the stage – hang on I thought, this is not Ash. Ash would have bound on stage, thrown drinks everywhere and then burst into ‘Kung Fu’. These guys picked up their instruments, and kind of just stood there.

Who are this lot then? I said to the Poppies chap next to me. “They are The Badgers”, he said, “Student band, they have won a competition to play tonight”. Oh I said taking a deep gulp of my beer. Then they started to play….

Folks, every now and again a band comes along that changes your life. For some it is the attitude, the swagger, the coolness. For others, it’s the tunes, the lyrics, the way the music takes a hold of you and pulls you in. For some it’s the way the singer stands, or the way the guitarist seems otherworldly or the way the drummer, erm, drums, actually its never the drummer is it, forget that bit. The Badgers had all that and then some. I knew right there and then I was watching rock history. In hundreds of years time, people would talk about this gig – and with any luck The Badgers would come to be worshipped in a Bill and Ted ‘Wild Stallions’ style future life. I was there people. I was there.

I stood open mouthed as the band rattled through a couple of songs, there was no interaction with the crowd, just song after song, each one an absolute belter. The singer had this voice that held your attention, but for me it was the guitarist that made this band – in a way that Oasis were nothing without Noel Gallagher or The Smiths were just a pub band without Johnny Marr. He was slightly older, ok, noticeably, older than the rest of the band and his hair was atrocious. He wore stone washed jeans with massive rips in the knees – he was so uncool, but man he could play guitar. You know that song ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ when the devil challenges Johnny to a ‘fiddle contest’ and Johnny kicks his arse – if the devil challenged this chap to a guitar slinging contest – he would get just as roundly beaten. He was the John Noakes of guitar playing and I stood there and wildly applauded him.

Twenty minutes later the singer spoke. “Thanks” he said, “This is our last song, its called “Glenn Hoddle’s Ghost”. This was the only song that they had said the name of. “We are The Badgers, and this is our last ever gig”.


Wait – you are the future of rock, what do you mean its your last ever gig. I was gobstruck. I stood there – a band who I had just discovered, were now just walking away, into the dark corners of the Student Union at Leeds University without a word. You can’t let a guitarist like that just walk out and go and do something else like sit in an office. In years to come this chap should be the Minister for Music, not standing in some crumbling building messing up tea orders for people and then sitting at a desk playing solitaire for three hours solid.

‘Glenn Hoddle’s Ghost’ is everything a song should be, over seven minutes long, full of swirling guitars and a catchy chorus of simply ‘Let’s Get It On, Yeah’. It also contains the greatest guitar wig out at the end of a song ever. Better than ‘I am the Resurrection’, and certainly better than the last track of ‘Picture Book’ by Simply Red, something I never thought I would ever type.

Then that was it, they walked off stage, to a blur of lights and the polite applause of about forty people. I was incensed, they don’t deserve polite applause, they deserve cheers and a clamour for an encore you morons. I leapt on stage YOU HEATHENS! I shouted, YOU IDIOTS I shouted, THIS BAND, THIS BAND…I never finished as the security guys grabbed me and threw me against a wall and slightly bruised my shoulder – but the crowd, they knew, they knew.

I didn’t see Ash or Pop Will Eat Itself, largely because I was thrown out of the venue, but actually I didn’t need to, I had seen the future of rock. I didn’t care about Ash anymore. Though I tried and tried to track down some of The Badgers music – I failed, largely because they were a student band who’d never recorded anything. But I never gave up hope. I tried at University to find out who was in the band, but they’d vanished. I thought once that I saw the guitarist once in Leeds City Centre but then realised it was a street cleaner and I was mistaken.

So I turned my back on indie rock music that minute because no matter how much of it I listened to – none of it came close to The Badgers, I mean Reef came very close to matching The Badgers style and passion, but ultimately I decided that they were just as shite as all the others. I threw myself into the comfort blanket of Radio 2 friendly pop, I embraced bands like The Lighthouse Family, and particularly Simply Red (who I’d already liked to be honest) and I was happy. I appeared on Popmaster with Ken Bruce and got 17 points. I didn’t the 3 in 10 though. It was the Manic Street Preachers and I hated them.

Then about two weeks ago – twenty one long years later. I was on line looking for something else and there it was ’Glenn Hoddle’s Ghost’. I bought it immediately and played it. It all came back, that swirling guitar, that massive drumming, that earwormy chorus.

You know what I did, I deleted everything from my iPod, no more ‘Jenny from the Block’, no more ‘Lifted’ , no more ‘Wonderwall’, I toyed with the idea of keeping ‘Fairground’ by Simply Red but ultimately I didn’t need it. I had every song ever recorded right there in that perfect seven minutes of music.

So there is no Imaginary Compilation, you don’t need one – you just need this one song – you just need ‘Glenn Hoddle’s Ghost’. Do what I did – delete your music collection, and just have this.

mp3 : The Badgers – Glenn Hoddle’s Ghost

If anyone know what happened to The Badgers, particularly the guitarist, please contact me through JC.


JC adds……

Given that this was the main act of the night, I couldn’t let this post pass without including this:-

mp3 : Pop Will Eat Itself – Karmadome

It’s a tune much loved by a mate whose birthday just happens to be today.