Speakers Push Air

December 10, 2007, 12:22 am
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.

Jeffrey Lewis – Systematic Death
from the album 12 Crass Songs (Pinnacle)

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Bought the Lewis album last night as a result of this blog. A good purchase. Steve Ignorants Feeding of The Five Thousand gigs-unsavoury? Perfect description of how I felt about it…but has his involvement with Crass prevented him making a reasonable living since? Is his turning rebellion into pantomime a problem? No, not really…the ideas promoted by Crass should be cut free from their source(s)…many of these ideas had become part of a new gospel, set in stone since Crass ceased trading, harked back to & looked upon as sacrosanct. If the Ignorant gigs by design or by accident have destroyed the Crass as gospel notion, the ideas are free to be taken up by those with fresh perspectives.Result!When I play out Crass tunes (very occassionally) its amazing how many people of a certain age look up & can be seen mouthing the words.Crass as a pocket conscience, thats the way I use them now. The ideas I seek, in my own small way, to promote, free from a past.

Comment by Stitch

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