Mark Stewart

Kiss the Future

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Ever the nonconformist, Mark Stewart waited more than a quarter century before releasing a compilation. This career-spanning collection covers both his Pop Group recordings and his subsequent solo work with the Maffia. The tracks gathered from Stewart's tenure with the Pop Group stand up remarkably well. There's no material from the band's didactic, slogan-heavy final album (For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?), but "She Is Beyond Good and Evil," "We Are Time," and "We Are All Prostitutes" serve more than adequately as abrasive, jarring reminders of an era when the British post-punk generation fulfilled the promise largely squandered by the class of 1977: combining a cerebral, abstract sensibility with a raw, intense, visceral quality, these numbers built on punk's blueprint with funk, jazz, and dub and pushed into genuinely innovative territory. Through the '80s and '90s, with producer Adrian Sherwood, Stewart's Maffia records pursued a denser, techno-dystopian, dub-heavy sound. That work is well represented here by the potent hybrid of hip-hop, rock, and funk, "Hypnotised"; the fragmented anthem "Jerusalem"; and the haunted, skeletal reggae of "Liberty City." (Unfortunately, this collection skips over Stewart's self-titled third album.) As the title of Kiss the Future suggests, Stewart has never had time for nostalgia, always looking forward and exploring fresh avenues of sonic deviance, and appropriately enough this collection includes three newer tracks. Although it's great to hear Stewart still shouting down Babylon on "The Puppet Master," "The Lunatics Are Taking Over the Asylum," and "Radio Freedom," there's also a strong sense of déjà vu about his state-of-the-world lyrical bombast and the weighty, hulking accompaniment. Kiss the Future is a surprisingly slim volume, which offers neither a detailed retrospective nor a full-fledged best-of set. That said, it works satisfactorily as an introduction insofar as it brings together some of Mark Stewart's strongest material.

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