The band Pop. 1280 named themselves after a book by infamous pulp novelist Jim Thompson, in which the dimwitted sheriff of a small Southern town unwittingly discovers his capacity for corruption and bloodshed. While their music suggests they exist in some otherworldly universe rather than the American Southwest, Pop. 1280's third full-length album, 2016's Paradise, sure sounds like the soundtrack to a story full of violence, betrayal, and bad karma. Dominated by unrelenting synthesized bellowing battling slashing guitar figures and femur-snapping drumming, Pop. 1280 summon a hellish wall of sonic abuse that manages to also be curiously compelling, a neo-industrial attack that starts in high gear and never stops pouring fire and brimstone on the listener. Despite the ferocity of this music, Pop. 1280 clearly appreciate the value of dynamics; on Paradise, the title tune is a few minutes of calm amidst the gathering electrical storm, and "Rain Song" is slower and quieter without sounding any less ominous, letting the musicians pace themselves before dealing out the final blow. Founding members Chris Bug and Ivan Lip, here assisted by drummer Andy Chugg and Allegra Sauvage on synthesizer and cello, give these songs a cinematic texture that's both evocative and unnerving, and if the lyrics share bleak stories of violence, cruelty, and the ugliest sides of American culture, you can't deny they suit the music and speak with reasonable intelligence about Bug and Lip's most common themes. No one ever said Paradise was going to be fun -- certainly not Pop. 1280 -- but at least these folks are clear on the notion that Hell is a very interesting place.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming