Following the heady days punk rock there was an explosion of multifaceted music exploration and experimentation that merged music genres, ideas, ethics and politics, and at the centre of all this was The Pop Group. Part of the emerging Bristol music scene in the late 1970s they were heavily involved with the politics of the day, supporting Rock Against Racism and anti-nuclear rallies; and in 1979 released their epic single, We Are All Prostitutes, with the iconic cover of Margaret Thatcher sticking up two fingers.
Nick Cave apparently expected the UK to be filled with bands sounding like The Pop Group when his group The Birthday Party relocated to London in the early 1980s. He and other contemporaries cite The Pop Group and in particular, lead singer Mark Stewart as a prime influence.
The Pop Group disbanded in 1981 after two great albums, ‘Y’ and the fabulously titled ‘For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder’. Several members went on to taste brief commercial success by dropping garage punk for a cleaner horn-driven funk with the likes of Pigbag and Rip, Rig & Panic. Mark Stewart, on the other hand, kept the experimental sound and erred towards a darker dub vibe. Throbbing bass lines and crisp snares were tangled with garage sound, punk mentality and avant-garde production techniques – the latter with the likes of Bristol producer Adrian Sherwood with whom he had a close relationship throughout the 1980’s with the On-U Sound Records label.
Since releasing his first solo single (Who’s Hot) under the guise of Mouth 2 in 1982, Mark Stewart has only released a splattering of singles and albums, all of which have pushed at boundaries rather than sitting comfortably with any particular style or genre. But more than anything Stewart has continued to merge dub reggae rhythms with crunching, hard, at times political, and always experimental production and interesting soundscapes through times that have seen the music industry contract from a wealth of independence to a major label big business oligopoly.
The first single from the forthcoming Politics Of Envy album was released last November, the double A-side Children Of The Revolution / Nothing Is Sacred which featured, among others former Pop Group bassist Dan Catsis and female vocalist Eve Libertine from the legendary anarcho-communist group / collective Crass.
The album also includes collaborations with a wealth of talent including the likes of Gina Birch (ex-The Raincoats), Richard Hell, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Bobby Gillespie & Primal Scream, Kenneth Anger, and former member of The Clash and Public Image Limited, and in my opinion, one of the most amazing guitarists of all-time, Keith Levene.
A second single, Automania, is to be released later this month (February) which sees Mark Stewart collaborate with Primal Scream and share vocals with long-time admirer, Bobby Gillespie. The promo vide was directed by former Jesus & Marychain bassist, Douglas Hart.
The Politics Of Envy is more diverse in its music styles than any other Mark Stewart album. His unique and original sound manages to steer clear of any trends while capturing sounds and atmospheres of the time. On Politics Of Envy I hear dubstep, punk, laid back dub reggae culture and hard-hitting rock angst. But most of all, I hear a collection of 11 songs that convinces me Mark Stewart and his music is as relevant in 2012 as it was in 1979.
Mark Stewart – ‘The Politics Of Envy’ tracklist:
1. Vanity Kills
3. Gang War
6. Gustav Says
7. Baby Bourgeois
8. Method To The Madness
9. Apocalypse Hotel
10. Letter To Hermione
The Politics Of Envy by Mark Stewart is due for release on 26th March 2012 through Future Noise Music.
For more information visit futurenoisemusic.com.