The howl of human misery is Mark Stewart’s fellow traveller. It is in his voice. It is in his words. Even when he lets love lead the way (e.g., the magnificent “Stranger Than Love”), the rasp and rattle of anxiety and despair shape his sound. Then there is the anger. Stewart’s eyes see the deeds of the wicked, and he gives both barrels to them (e.g., the even more amazing “Hypnotised”). Everything he shares is impressed with the message: get off your knees and dance.
VS is a collage of rhythm against repression. Beginning with Patrick Codenys tearing the seams of dub for “Rage of Angels” – a track cast as Mark Stewart vs Front 242 – the premise of the album is cast. The head-strong and the world-weary are thrown into action, in a blur of post-punk personalities. Stewart is triangulated with Stephen Mallinder and Eric Random for “Cast No Shadow,” which gets the Leaether Strip treatment. Random reappears for “Ghost of Love,” aiming his sequencers into the void. There is dark matter there, and transmissions can be detected from Consolidated, Mika Vainio, Mike Watt, KK Null, Ye Gods, Adrian Sherwood, and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Two of the contributors are no longer living, but Death is no A&R man. Get up, said James Brown, and the time for the big payback was here.