Mark Stewart and the Maffia and A Certain Ratio
- Neil Cooper
- 5 June 2008
Mark Stewart and the Maffia - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Thu 12 Jun; A Certain Ratio - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Sat 14 Jun
Somewhere between Manchester and Bristol there’s a punk-funk ley line. How else to explain the umbilical link between The Pop Group and A Certain Ratio, two bands who married rudimentary white-boy messthetics with Funkadelic-inspired disco grooves, free jazz skronk and dub clatter. Often in the same song.
Both bands produced classic singles; The Pop Group with ‘She is Beyond Good And Evil,’ ACR with their cover of Banbarra’s ‘Shack Up’. Both appeared on Andrew Weatherall’s The Nine O’Clock Drop compilation, released retrospectives on Soul Jazz, and have new albums pending. How thrilling, then, for both ACR and former Pop Group vocalist Mark Stewart to turn up on your front doorstep within days of each other.
‘We were in competition,’ says ACR’s Martin Moscrop. ‘They were the only other band trying to fuse things other than just rock.’ ACR were immortalised via Factory Records flick, 24 Hour Party People. An episode of flashback cop drama, Ashes to Ashes, meanwhile, was based around a Pop Group fan daubing the slogan ‘We Are All Prostitutes,’ plundered from the band’s most anti-capitalist single, around Thatcher’s London. Some 27 years on, Stewart is warming up for a South Bank appearance at this year’s Massive Attack-curated Meltdown.
‘My philosophy,’ says Stewart, ‘is to go to the source. So I’ve been working with Berlin techno guys, and there’s talk of working with Ornette Coleman. But basically all I’ve ever done is try and lob square bricks into round holes.’