1983, Music

Learning to Cope with Cowardice (1983) by Mark Stewart + Maffia

I have long meant to listen to The Pop Group but somehow it seems I’ve just never gotten around to doing it. Because of that I lack the knowledge of the connection between this music (made by its lead singer) and the earlier music. Maybe this would make more sense to me with that context.

But I have listened to a fair amount of late ’70s, early ’80s industrial, so I have a least a bit of context for this radical, willfully difficult record, which seems not just intent on convincing you to revolt against the government, but to revolt against musical convention as well.

The music is a mixture of ideas from dub and early industrial with a lot more punk to the vocals. (Well, the fact that there are so many lyrics is a clear departure from both of those genres.) I don’t know that I’ve ever heard something that merges these two genres like this. It’s pretty novel, actually, far as I know. So it’s like “funky industrial” or something like that. (Hard to believe, probably.)

The lyrics are sometimes quite good but often just bonkers. I know nothing of Stewart but if he’s being genuine he is long past the point of being reasonable about his politics; he is paranoid, which is hard to take in the doses provided here.

And that’s the big problem for me, really. Everything goes on to long. Maybe industrial and dub had never been fused before (I have no idea) and so this is a landmark. But if you don’t love the fusion he creates – too industrial for dub fans, too dubby for industrial fans, too political for dub fans, lacking in melody for just about everyone but industrial fans – it’s hard to really get excited about a record that just hammers you with this sound over and over again. Though it’s well-produced, everything kind of blends together after a while and you’re thinking “I got it on the first track, I don’t need seven more.”


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