Hugs and Kisses: Jeffrey Lewis's 12 Crass Songs
Hugs and Kisses
The Outbursts of Everett True
This week: anarcho-punks Crass and Will-Oldham-horrorfied Jeffrey Lewis
I liked Crass when I was a teenager.
I got a scholarship to a posh school. Well, kinda posh. It had boarders, anyway. Me and my three brothers, we had council places, I used to get called 'tramp' because I wore hand-me-downs, and everyone laughed at my appearance, least until the Sixth Form when it was 1977, punk was in and suddenly everyone was claiming to be really, really poor. Like, I didn't know they lived in a fucking mansion down the road, whereas I shared a room with my three brothers. Whatever. I got a reputation for liking music--or perhaps the fact I lived 10 minutes walk from a council estate gave me a certain credibility that my school 'chums' couldn't help but aspire to; but all of a sudden I was getting invited to parties, to DJ. Took along Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band album, and the first Crass 12-inch The Feeding Of The Five Thousand in revenge, played them back-to-back, and never got invited there again. Whatever.
Primitive anarchist punk band (they later became far more sophisticated) Crass tapped into a primal rage within me; a burgeoning distrust of society, my peers, the accepted way of thinking, what with all their overtly far left lyrics concerned with (and I'm quoting direct from Wikipedia here) anti-consumerism, direct action, animal rights, feminism, anti-war, anti-corporatism, environmentalism, LGBT rights, anti-globalisation, reproductive rights, anti-racism, squatting, and the separation of church and state. Their songs were short, brutal, focused and brilliant: diatribes against. . . well, all of the above, and also (to start with) cheap pot-shots at their own peers, the vilified 'establishment' of punk that was swamping the media: The Clash, et al.
"Do they owe use a living/'Course they do/'Course they do/Do they owe us a living/'COURSE THEY FUCKING DO!" singer Steve Ignorant sneered over a ramshackle two-chord thrash and tinny drums; the sheer bile and passion of his anger more than making up for whatever production deficiencies you care to name. A 45 followed - "Reality Asylum" b/w "Shaved Woman" (PAY NO MORE THAN 45p) - which was fine and everything, and 1979's debut full-length Stations Of The Crass was pretty fucking good, albeit somewhat pushing their generic Ramones-thrash formula to its limits; but it wasn't until 1980 when they released the incredible split single with Poison Girls, "Bloody Revolutions" b/w "Persons Unknown," that they really started to affect my life.