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Cheerio for English Underbelly

February 07, 1988|CARY DARLING

***GAYE BIKERS ON ACID. "Drill Your Own Hole." Caroline. **POP WILL EAT ITSELF. "Now for a Feast." Rough Trade.

The British are the masters of high-concept pop, and the latest concept to emerge from the little island is Grebo--Brit shorthand for greasy bastard . A mostly male, teen-age reaction to Thatcherist yuppie-dom, it celebrates the scuzz at the bottom of the cultural garbage pail. Grebo is stringy long hair, zits, grungy guitars and the pig-ugly underside of England 1988.

It's doubtful that Grebo will capture the attention of American youth--after all, the U.S. has had its own variant for 10 years in the Ramones--but at least one band in the movement, Gaye Bikers on Acid, certainly deserves to be heard. Led by a guy named Mary, GBOA pays homage to Motorhead, '60s psychedelia, Klingons, skateboarding, "The Evil Dead," hip-hop, Godzilla, anti-war politics and "Rawhide."

But GBOA is more than just a pop trash compactor. "Drill Your Own Hole" is a sharply produced album, and tracks like "All Hung Up," "Call Me a Liar" and "Git Down (Shake Your Thang)" transcend their myriad influences to become solid pop songs in their own right. After all, with a name like Gaye Bikers on Acid, it has to be good.

The equally absurdly named Pop Will Eat Itself makes a less favorable impression on its U.S. debut. A compilation of various EPs and singles, "Now for a Feast" offers a band less willing to stray from a straightforward garage approach. There are shadows of prime Buzzcocks, Undertones and Mighty Lemon Drops in PWEI's severely under-produced pop, and the band shows a flair for hooks on songs like "The Devil Inside," "Mesmerized" and "Oh Grebo I Think I Love You."

But the band is undercut by a lack of variety and a misogyny that borders on cruelty. In "Sick Little Girl," vocalist Clint Mansell deadpans, "She's a real dumb bitch, she's a waste of good skin, she's a sick little girl."

PWEI has reportedly altered its approach on its more recent material, but until those tracks cross the Atlantic, American Grebo fans would do better to check out some similarly styled pre-Grebo bands like the Hoodoo Gurus and L.A.'s own Redd Kross.

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