All the die-hard fans are adamant that the first LP “Learning To Cope With Cowardice” is either the best or at least as good as “Veneer”. But I still don’t agree!
I’m not exactly in a position to judge, cos what I thought was a pristine (or at least fairly complete) collection of the key On-U productions seems to lack Both “As the Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade” and Mark Stewart. So this post isn’t the comparison-fest it should’ve been. But still, in absolute terms, Learning to Cope with Cowardice is phenomenal. I can’t agree with John that it “hasn’t aged all that well”. For one thing the playing is actually very tight and the grooves are dead funky. The credits list the keyboard player as “Fat Fingers”, and I wonder if it’s actually Skip MacDonald… the Worrell-isms are too dead-on to be some random Bristol punk. I think. Far from being fractured beyond recognition, the pulse behind the tracks remains absolutely constant, no matter how much tape distortion or backwards reverb is applied, so even as a track seems to be deconstructing into chaos, it’s actually still keeping it totally on the one. Clearly the inspiration is Funkadelic wig-outs, but with a greater underlying discipline (i.e. it all stays in time, unlike say Maggot Brain). Admittedly None Dare Call it Conspiracy is a bit all over the place. But side one is ace, not nearly so bad as John’s description of it as “sometimes excessive dub work outs”. I prefer it to side 2 actually. Similarly The Paranoia of Power on side 2 is nowhere near as bad as John makes out. Rather than cod white reggae it’s a fine and varied UK roots track. Funnily enough Jersualem doesn’t sound quite as good, and certainly not as long, as I remember it bleeping out of Peel in the early 80s, but there you have it.
Some day I’m going to digitise the Mark Stewart / Tackhead live tape I’ve been taunting John with since 1993. it