In our ever accelerating culture, it’s nice to spin a full album length of pure genius as an alternative to the never-endning zapping for retro-digs, cheap kitch thrills and the chok of the latest fake blogger-invented genre. Let´s return to the semi-obscure classics. I always return to Mark Stewart. Listen to this planning Guy Debord-inspired actions or looting computers for hacking, rioting on skunk.
The original punk rock style – primitive rock maximized through dramatics and angry concepts – died out in the late 70’s, but gave way to a empowering do it yourself ethos: steal a guitar, invent a look, get some inspiration outside the music world: be it politics, art, drugs, film, or previously “unknown” or underground music. A healthy quest for inventive adventures filtered by authentic emotions is the hallmark of the – very diverse – post-punk era. The means of production, tape recorders and studio gear, got cheaper and into the hands of the artist themselves, not being exclusive tools for experts working for big controlling labels anymore.The artist/producer suddenly became a likely role for the suffering musician, and a new underground cottage industry churned out a wealth of original material. A climate perfect for the very young and slightly paranoid situationist poet Mark Stewart, who assembled a tight outfit recording under the ironic “The Pop Group” name. Merging punk´s hysteric and chaotic energy with raw stripped down funk mixed in a style inherited from the early dub sound-systems of the Jamaican parts of Brixton, they addressed world politics and essential 80’s angst best heard on the “Y” album.
Mark went solo, made the classic “As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade” pictured above, recruiting a stelar cast, the Tackhead crew, the studio wizards behind the elite beats of the New York electro and Grandmaster Flash s “The message”, the track that broke sociopolitical rap mainstream worldwide. To trash the resulting songs he added mix wizard stoner and raga fanatic Adrian Sherwood inventing a new hallucinatory industrial electro dub style, noisy, arty, aggressive, brittle, but funky as hell, making the ultimate non-cheesy adult “hard-hop” dj-tools for the EBM dominated underground dance-floors of the mid-80´s.
The masterpiece is the Mark Stewart: Mark Stewart album, where dusty samples of Erik Satie, Billy Idol, Trouble Funk and David Sylvian/Ryuichi Sakamoto is crushed by Sherwood’s towering delay orgies and moulded into a backdrop for the muso band to drop their sinister but sexy hyper-grooves. In contrast to the perfect apocalyptic dance, Marks vocals sounds hurt, intimate, a too fragile crooner begging for sanity in the middle of a global and inner riot.
Article by Morten Vammen.