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Released 8 June 2012
Producer Andrew Dawson
Label Rough Trade
Length 40:04
Genre Indie pop
Website popetcetera.com

Having discovered the unfortunate connotations that their name held in Europe, The Morning Benders made the sensible decision to change it to the more generic and slightly less giggle inducing POP ETC. Sensible because, aside from the obvious homophobic aspect, they either become ridiculed for their name or become reluctant poster boys for a cause they never intended to represent and in both situations the music takes a back seat. The rejuvenation doesn’t stop at the band name either, bassist Tim Or has flown the coop and their musical direction has shifted to a more pop oriented sound so while the ingredients may be somewhat familiar this is a brand new start and a self titled debut album of sorts will provide the evidence of whether this rebranding has been worthwhile.

Rather fittingly, the album opens with 'New Life' a song which comes together slowly, akin to a new entity coming to life, unfortunately this is the only semi-clever moment on the album. Taking it as a transitional piece to introduce the new POP ETC sound it can be forgiven for being a bit dull but from here there is little improvement as the album plods through derivative pop songs. It’s a million miles from The Morning Benders’ sound and it's clear there is no hybrid of styles here which could have made this an interesting exercise, POP ETC is shamelessly pop.

The band also seem to be suffering from some sort of identity crisis or paranoid delusions brought on by an overdose of Viagra and amphetamines as they go all Jekyll and Hyde over relationships. It begins with 'Live It Up' with singer Chris Chu announcing how he only wants meaningless one night stands whilst on tour as he has a girlfriend back home (who incidentally he doesn’t keep in touch with). This is followed up later with 'Why’d You Do It Honey' which has Chu musing over a failed relationship, wondering why he’s been left broken hearted - he’s clearly unable to make the connection between his promiscuity and a failed relationship, karma’s a bitch. He then finishes off the triumvirate of sociopathic boyfriend tracks with the frankly disturbing 'I Wanna Be Your Man', a song that loses all its potential charm after what has preceded it.

All these things could be forgiven (or at the very least glossed over) if the music was up to scratch. Rappers and pop stars alike have built careers out of misogyny and promiscuity, but once the music sounds good the general public can be quite flexible on what they consider to be socially acceptable and politically correct. However despite working with big hitting Grammy award winning talent in Danger Mouse and Andrew Dawson the music is weak. It works from time to time, 'Halfway to Heaven' and 'Yoyo' both represent a decent attempt at writing pop music but it still is some way off the mark expected for chart topping bands.

Any chance of defending POP ETC’s cynical money making switch from indie up-and-comers to pop sell outs would rest on the music being good which it clearly isn’t. While it is the band’s prerogative to operate in whatever genre they want to, they have left a very promising indie career in favour of forgettable pop, the album is poor and the motivations are clear which makes it all the more unforgivable.

- Brian Kinsella