A true genius of the post-punk era, Mark Stewart first appeared in agit-combo the Pop Group, whose ground-breaking sound furthered the Clash’s political punky-reggae by adding an ass-quakin’ dose of James Brown-style funk. Then with his own Maffia band, comprised of the Sugar Hill Gang rhythm section that played on countless proto-hip-hop, he continued to spew forth his apocalyptic screed, with a forward-looking tilt towards the emerging sound of electro.
Since the mid ’80s, Stewart has dispatched occasional mind-blowing postcards from the edge, a man out of time, screaming out his visions of global corruption like a Cassandra to whom only the dedicated and deranged listen. This year’s The Politics Of Envy album tipped the balance back in Stewart’s favor, thanks in part to its galaxy of stellar collaborators, including Primal Scream, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and even the legendary satanic art-movie director, Kenneth Anger.
It’s a terrific, if oddly conventional, idea to keep up that momentum with a remix album. With thrilling perversity, however, this one has been conducted, not by another A-list cast of DJ’s and mixers, but by the singer himself. Where, overall, Politics played up his pop-disco side, Exorcism is way more experimental, touching on his gnarly late-’80s industrialism in places, and throughout on his pedigree as an Adrian Sherwood-partnering scientist of dub.
The opening “Baby Cino” reimagines “Baby Bourgeois” with all manner of police sirens, echo and FX sailing in and out of the mix. Dub logic is applied to “Stereotype”‘s rave/nu-disco revelry (“Sexorcist”); to the slow-thumping, tekknoid “Method To The Madness” in its spaced-out-I-Threes “Twisted Logic Version”; and, most corrosively, to the lumbering, Lee Perry-featuring “Gang War” on “Mirror Wars,” which briefly (and bafflingly!) switches tempo midway through into a hectic rap from Bristol’s Xacute.
But Exorcism Of Envy is not about foregrounding any one musical genre. From the gleeful electro cut-up of “Want (Greedy Greedy Beat)” to the simmering Afro-bongo re-reading of “Apocalypse Hotel,” it’s all about different musics being forced to co-exist under the same roof for a few minutes. The fact is, they get along just fine.
As with all the best dub/remix records, the original tracks’ purpose comes through louder and clearer than ever, as fragments of Stewart’s withering, wailing messages about consumerism-gone-mad and corporate greed ricochet around your cranium. Thirty-plus years on from his inception, this wild-eyed post-punk prophet is soundtrack our desperate, post-millennial times as thrillingly and inventively as anyone else out there.