Pop Will Eat Itself – ‘Can U Dig It?’ | Record of the Day

Pop Will Eat Itself Can U Dig It? sleeve

“OK, let’s get down to it, boppers” – The DJ from The WarriorsCan U Dig It? by Pop Will Eat Itself

Can U Dig It? is Pop Will Eat Itself’s gloriously pointless, sample heavy celebration of late-twentieth century, English speaking pop culture. Released as the band’s sixth single in 1989, it became their biggest hit to date, sneaking into the lower reaches of the UK Top 40 at number 38.

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PWEI had been around in various manifestations and under various names since 1981. For the first few years of their existence they’d been an entertaining enough, if pretty uninspiring punk outfit. They took a more forward-looking approach in the second half of the decade, embellishing their sound with synthesizers, samplers and a drum machine named Dr Nightmare.

This hip-hop inspired transformation changed the game completely for the band, turning them into ‘grebo’ cyber-punks and attracting a huge underground fanbase which propelled a string of outstanding singles into the mainstream charts up until the mid-’90s.

A few of these singles would have made a good PWEI RotD selection. X, Y & Zee nearly made it, because it samples Slim Jenkins’ Place by Booker T and the MGs, but in the end, Can U Dig It? got the nod on account of its lyrics. It’s just a list song, detailing random pop culture shit the band dig:

We dig TV, we dig remote control,
We dig the Furry Freak Brothers and the Twilight Zone,
We dig Marvel and DC, we dig Run-DMC,
We dig Renegade Soundwave and AC/DC

Now that’s a simple concept, but I believe it’s one that other bands should consider. Give us a list of what you’re into. Tell us what your influences are in a song – you’re musicians, dammit! You listen to Can U Dig It? once and you instantly get to know what makes Pop Will Eat Itself tick that bit better without having to try and guess or read an interview with them. It’s a great idea.

Along with the opening sample, the song’s title is also taken from Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic, The Warriors, for an extra insight into the PWEI mindset.

Pop Will Eat Itself 1989

PWEI split up in 1996. Lead singer Clint Mansell went on to a highly successful career writing film scores, giving a certain symmetry to his story. Having spent 15 years borrowing and stealing snippets from films, he went on to a new life putting tunes back into that industry.

Pop Will Eat Itself reformed, without Clint, in 2005. They continue to this day with a largely new line up. If this new iteration of the band ever decides to remake Can U Dig It? with a list of the stuff that’s currently floating their boats, that’s fine with me.


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Nick Perry

Nick writes fact, fiction and opinion in various places including
his music blog noisecrumbs.com. His musical tastes cover indie, grunge, golden-era hip hop, punk, funk, psychedelia and a big portion of distortion. You can and should follow him on Twitter @NoiseCrumbs.

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