Filed under: 2007 Top 20
In one sense, it was inevitable I’d really love Jeffrey Lewis’ 12 Crass Songs. I mean, I love Jeffrey Lewis – and still remember with pride him telling me how much he’d enjoyed what I played when I DJed at one of his gigs a while back.
And then there’s Crass. Crass changed everything, blah blah blah. I was a shade too young to see them, or be that involved in those times (when they split up I was just 15) but they made a huge impact, pointed me off in lots of directions and changed what I listened to as well. Damn, I even got a Crass logo tattooed on my ankle (a lot later, as well: I figured that if I still wanted it about 15 years after I first discovered them, then that was probably long enough to be sure.. ). Crass seem to have a circular relationship with the zeitgeist – of late, they’ve been in the air: the unsavoury Feeding Of The 5000 ‘comeback’ gigs, a couple of books (the one I read, by George Berger, pretty much appalling) and then, bizarrely, this album of Crass reinterpretations by Lewis.
It’s a brilliant idea done brilliantly well. By covering the songs in a folky (but not in any way flimsy) manner, Lewis has done two important things: he’s made it possible – for Crass fans as much as everyone else – to hear the lyrics afresh and realise that for all the criticism in hindsight of what Crass stood for, they made a lot of sense, now as then; he’s also made it possible to hear what some of us always heard in Crass anyway – some brilliant music. Not always – I mean, who ever listens to Yes Sir, I Will? – but certainly on Penis Envy, for example, an album that still bears repeated listens. It’s musically interesting, it’s even catchy in places – I mean, it’s got whistling, for god’s sake.
It’s odd, after the excellent original releases that Lewis has put out these last few years, that it’s a covers album that has seen him break through more than, say, It’s The Ones Who’ve Cracked That The Light Shines Through. But it’s such a great album, nobody’s complaining.
I picked Systematic Death to share – it was the first Crass song I heard, in a bedsit in Parkstone in Dorset almost 25 years ago, and it made me feel funny . And it makes me feel a bit funny even now.
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