Mark Stewart – The Politics of Envy

January 01, 1970

(Mute)

www.mute.com

 

For his eighth solo effort, former Pop Group ranter Mark
Stewart offers an entirely professional art-punk album. Which is kind of odd,
since the Pop Group specialized in amateurism that went beyond inspired to
downright apocalyptic.

That fans of British post-punk will be intrigued, if not necessarily transported,
by The Politics of Envy is obvious
from its list of guest stars: Richard Hell, Gina Birch, Tessa Pollitt, Youth,
Daddy G and, of course, Bobby Gillespie. (Also Kenneth Anger, for what that’s
worth.) All these pals help Stewart range across dub, funk, goth and electro,
while spouting sloganistic denunciations of consumer culture and other dangers:
“If you’re not busy buying/You’re busy being sold,” warns the
throbbing “Gang War,” a collaboration with the ever-ominous Lee
“Scratch” Perry that includes shout-outs to Hamas and Hezbollah.
(Ironic? Maybe, but irony has never been a specialty of either man.)

Most of this sounds pretty good, if surprisingly conventional. “Gustav
Says” is basically a disco tune, complete with backup chicks. “Baby
Bourgeois” may denounce “corporate cocksuckers,” but its hook is
a cheery “na na na-na na.” “Letter to Hermione” is a Bowie cover that even Bowie might find too deferential. And at the
end of “Codex,” Stewart seems to be channeling Barry White.

Other songs are, thankfully, more unruly. That must be Levene playing guitar on
“Autonomia” and “Stereotype,” which surge like early Public
Image Limited, and “Want” growls and gnashes convincingly. But too
much of The Politics of Envy sounds
like the mid-’80s acts that glued British pop back together after bands like
the Pop Group smashed it to bits.

DOWNLOAD: “Autonomia,”
“Want” MARK JENKINS

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