Mark Stewart and Maffia - Learning To Cope With Cowardice / The Lost Tapes (Definitive Edition)
2xLP - Limited Double Clear Vinyl with Insert
Learning To Cope With Cowardice, the groundbreaking debut solo album by visionary post-punk iconoclast Mark Stewart, is to be given a definitive reissue alongside The Lost Tapes, a newly discovered cache of unreleased material - described by Mark and Adrian Sherwood as distinct primitivism. After disbanding The Pop Group in the wake of a final performance at a momentous CND rally in 1980, Stewart had grown disillusioned with the UK’s music industry.
Above the constructed chaos Stewart remains a commanding and mercurial presence, sitting at extreme boundaries within the mix and wrestling with themes of alienation, doubt, power, and political resistance. From the thunderous distortions of the eponymous introduction through the mixing desk sabotage and visions of urban blight on Liberty Cityto the sublime subversion of Jerusalem (an unforgettable rendition of William Blake’s poem) Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a blast of volatile soundsystem music for modern dystopias, the ones we knew back then and the ones we know now. The backdrop in which Stewart and Sherwood produced the record was one of pressure and unrest, an atmosphere driven by severe social deprivation and unemployment, Cold War disquiet and fears of nuclear conflict. Exemplifying its pertinence to the temper of the time, the recordings that comprise Learning To Cope With Cowardice were shaped by sessions that Stewart and Sherwood conducted at the studio HQ of anarcho-punk outfit Crass, wildly creative stints that coincided with the riots that erupted in Bristol, London and across other areas of the UK in 1980 / 81.
Alongside this faithful reissue of the original comes The Lost Tapes, a collection that represents the outcome of a painstaking search and arrangement of previously unheard material. Brought together into a sequence of embryonic prototypes, frenzied dub versions and new archive discoveries, The Lost Tapes chronicles the early ideas and unknown stories that defined the outset of Stewart and Sherwood’s vastly influential work together. With the seething assault of Intro the collection provides a glimpse into a project Stewart originally intended for William Burroughs whilst May I presents a never-before-heard spectacle of raw dubwise disorder recently discovered on an unmarked tape in an archive in France.
Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a vital chapter in the legacy of Mark Stewart and The Maffia, a project that would prove to be a revolutionary benchmark for many, from the innovators of the ‘Bristol Sound’ (The Wild Bunch, Smith & Mighty, Tricky, Massive Attack) through to the likes of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. Collected together this set realizes an expansive restoration of one of Stewart’s most audacious statements. As it was in the early 1980s so it is now, Learning To Cope With Cowardice is a masterwork of mutant design and a rude awakening of extraordinary bite.