I encountered P.O.S. when I was travelling in North America a couple of years ago, passed to me by one of the rad anarcho-nihilist crew I was hanging with. And that was basically his music: anarchist in the sense of being rebellious and unruly, but nihilist also, in that it wasn’t preachy moralism trying to ‘convert’ everyone else to some cause. One of my favourite lines from an early track called ‘Drumroll’ goes: “I ain’t no casualty/ Got no surface with spotless morality/ My dirt may have to cover up my grave”.
P.O.S. released his most recent album, Chill, Dummy, in 2017. There was a 5 year gap between it and the previous album, We Don’t Even Live Here. That was due to some life-threatening health shit. So it makes sense that it is quite different to that older one. If that was a bangin’, dancefloor record with anarchist-y lyrics about creating tension, this one is harder to pin down, the obvious big beats replaced with more interesting, but fitful and hard-to-pin-down ones. There’s more going on, beats overlayed upon each other, melodies that drift through for a moment, guest vocals that sometimes carry most of the song, and other times just appear to deliver one line. The great hooks are a little harder to find, but they’re still there. It took me awhile, but ultimately, I like it more than the previous album.
There’s still a stance of nihilist antagonism towards the banality of the oppressive structures that surround us (including bratty lines like, “vomited in chunks cos the ambience sux”, delivered by guest vocalist Busdriver, who does an excellent verse on track 5, ‘Pieces/Ruins). But there’s also the note of nostalgia and reflection that creeps in having been through more of whatever life throws at us.
All of this culminates in the final track, an 8-minute epic called ‘Sleepdrone/ Superposition’. It somehow throws a bit of everything I’ve described about this album and comes up with a perfect conclusion. It’s not obvious or easy, but you can’t look away at any moment. The words include all the antagonism, rebelliousness, anger, sadness, loss, nostalgia, reflection, criticism, love, hope – all of it – and still every line is in perfect place. There’s a verse where five different guest vocalists do a bar – just a snippet – each. There’s Kathleen Hanna declaring “You’re supposed to be happy to be alive/ You’re supposed to be lucky to be alive”.
And through it all it is the flow of POS pulling it together. He’s a black bloc rioter, he’s a parent trying to do the best by his kid(s), he is Mike Brown and Eric Garner – he can’t breathe, he is – kidneys failing – scared to die, he’s “dreaming like a hooligan” and spitting “where cops be walking”, he is smiling, sunglasses on, thumbs-up, emoji. He is riding out, sifting through and striking back against the whole terrifying, ridiculousness of this mess we’ve been thrown into.
Anyway have a listen (and watch, cos the clip is pretty incredible too).