Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Mark Stewart and Mafia
As The Veneer Of Democracy Starts To Fade


Released 1985 on Mute
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 19/03/2001ce


Those who lamented the passing of The Pop Group in 1980 (myself included) really had no reason to feel so low because their leading light, singer Mark Stewart after a stint with The New Age Steppers would go on to form his own group Mafia, who would go on to equal and sometimes surpass the best of The Pop Group's recordings. Sadly though outside of a few dedicated Stewart freaks his incredible work with Mafia has gone unheard, this is a crying shame because Stewart is one of the true giants of contemporary music. Stewart along with Adrian Sherwood have virtually re-invented Dub music, and both of these men are as important to 80's Dub and beyond as King Tubby was to 70's Dub.

I would recommend any recording with Mark Stewart's name on it but "As The Veneer of Democracy Starts To Fade" is a 5 star classic. Side one opens with an eerie android vocal that shifts into the mighty "Passcivecation Program" this track is absolutely mind shattering! there are sounds on this song that I can't even begin to describe but early in the song are some pummeling riffs played on instruments that I can't identify. Keith LeBlanc's drumming is pulverizing while Doug Wimbish lays down wicked bass grooves, Skip McDonald provides guitar muscle and tasteful keyboard flashes that sound like Augustus Pablo, Stewart as is his custom sings like Damo Suzuki with a hellhound on his trail. One must not forget Adrian Sherwood who ties this sound together like the true genius he is.

The second song ( if you can call it a song ) is called "Bastards" this is really a nightmare future shock soundscape that features wicked beats sound effects and Stewart screaming "bastards" in the background, this is music for the last day of earth. The final track on side one is incredible it's called "The Resistance Of The Cell" and it begins with one of the filthiest bass riffs ever committed to wax, kind of like The Clash's "This Is Radio Clash" but with balls, at times it sounds like there is fluff on the needle and the sound blurs into white noise ( I'm sure My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields has listened to this record once or twice ) yet "Resistance Of The Cell" is a very catchy tune that brings to mind an early Killing Joke 45 called "Change". Side one actually closes with an unlisted track that's only a minute or so long it sounds like background noise from a street somewhere in Egypt.

Side two begins with the title track that fades in and out with a song called "Hypnotized" which is an extended piece of experimental Dub with traces of a melody, this is perhaps the most commercial piece on the record. Next is "Slave To Love" a Pop Group type number that burns with intensity it features a mind-numbing bassline by Wimbish, this one could have been lifted as a single. The Mafia save the best for last as the record closes with one of Stewart's best ever songs "The Waiting Room" which is a haunting number with superb icy keyboards Gregorian chant vocals ala The Yardbirds "Still I'm Sad", Stewart keeps singing "too young to be so cynical" all through this moving piece, If I remember correctly USA group Fugazi did a cover of "The Waiting Room". Sometimes I think I'm the only person in the world who digs Mark Stewart and The Mafia but I'm sure there are others I just haven't met any other fans yet, so that's why I'm screaming about them here, hoping other folks will check them out. Most Mafia records can still be found quite easily and cheaply if you can't find them in your local shop try www.musicstack.com or www.gemm.com I got some of their CD's there.

"As The Veneer Of Democracy Starts To Fade" is one of the greatest records ever made and stands proudly next to The Pop Group's "Y" as one of the most innovative records of the last 25 years. Hear it as soon as you can, you'll never be the same.


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