Imps of Perversion, the second LP from noisy New York punks Pop. 1280, bruises and fumes. It's an angry record that takes stock of modern crises — population overload, unending violence, senseless torture — and blasts them all with jagged riffs, dense synthesizers and the burly belts of singer Chris Bug. There's nothing reasonable about it. It's unhinged fury, marked by wicked hyperbole and blackest humor. They're mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.
In conversation, Bug and guitarist Ivan Lip are surprisingly even-tempered. They answer questions about their combative style calmly and thoughtfully.
During a 20-minute chat, they bristle only once — at the idea that they might be lumped in with the current crop of underground noise-rock bands. They don't point fingers directly, but they complain about bands who hide uninteresting songs beneath thick fuzz. Pop. 1280 aspires to more genuine terrors.
"I feel like a lot of bands are doing that today and calling it noise music, noise-rock," Bug says. "And that's not what we're trying to do. We're trying to do something industrial that sounds different."
They're cool with bands that have a somewhat similar vibe — Pennsylvania's dense and ferocious Pissed Jeans, for instance — but they're adamant that their musical style and lyrical approach differ from most of the discordant punks who claim noise as a key to their aesthetic.
These strengths have never been more apparent. On Imps, they scale back the brutish scuzz that simultaneously obscured and elevated 2012's supremely frightening The Horror, the band surging confidently with crushing bass and jarring synths. It makes for a more forceful impact.
Take "Nailhouse," Imps' seven-minute centerpiece. The blunt and repetitive synth fill calls to mind the minimalist aggression of Suicide, but Pop. 1280, which performs at The Milestone on Sept. 18, beefs it up with scarring riffs and an undercurrent of ominous distortion.
Bug attacks swiftly and deftly, howling with the ferocity of Nick Cave circa The Birthday Party. He slyly sexualizes torture and war — "In a high-res world, you look so young/ You'll end up dead in a bathtub" — showing little sympathy for the victim — "I try to imagine myself as you/ But all I can think of is dog food."
Stripped of The Horror's brutal grime, Imps lacks the visceral sense of doom that made that record so compelling. But the newfound clarity allows the band to better express its twisted visions. It's just as frightening, albeit in a different way.
"Restraint and dynamics can be scary," Lip says. "I mean, Howlin' Wolf is scary. Robert Johnson is scary. John Carpenter's music's scary, and it's just him and a synthesizer and a drum machine. We weren't going to make The Horror over again. I definitely didn't want to get into one of these military build-up contests with ourselves where it's like every time we make a record, we have to find some stupider way to make it, so it was even more blown-out and scary sounding."