The Story of Crass & The Day The Country Died

The Story of Crass & The Day The Country Died

Two complementary books revisiting the experience of anarcho-punk provide fascinating insights into the evolution and development of the movement.

The Story of Crass
by George Berger
2006, 2008 Omnibus Press (UK)
2009 PM Press (US)
ISBN 1-84609-402-X
304 pages

Since the anarchist punk band Crass brought to an end the group’s cultural-political assault on the Thatcherite state in the summer of 1984, the complex history of the first-wave of British anarcho-punk has languished in a state of almost uninterrupted neglect. For seven intensive years before that cut-off date the rebellious flames of anarcho-punk burned bright, lighting-up a sub-culture that took the revolutionary protestations of punk rock and the idea of ‘doing-it-yourself’ (DIY) profoundly seriously.

In recent years, cash-savvy publishers have pumped out innumerable coffee-table books rehashing the history of commercial Pistols-authored punk (of alarmingly variable degrees of quality). Very few amongst them have made any effort to accurately represent the history of anarcho-punk: the one manifestation of the sub-culture genuinely convinced that punk should (and could) give life to the movement’s irresistibly subversive logic. The burying of the specifically anarchist strand of punk within the historiography of punk rock is not simply the outcome of a nefarious conspiracy amongst retired rock journalists – although that conspiracy does exist, as much fuelled by ignorance and arrogance as by malice. Mainstream eulogisers of punk always face great difficulty in trying to incorporate anarcho-punk’s searing critique of punk orthodoxy into their own reassuringly-familiar Bromley Contingent narratives.

But the ease with which such historical sleight of hand can be carried out is also a reflection of the fiercely independent (some would say separatist) sensibilities of the anarcho-punk movement itself, which viewed its continually disappointing commercial counterpart with bitter disdain. Anarcho-punk opted instead for an autonomous existence and a life apart – making it easier for both malevolent and for myopic historians to try to write it out of the record. Works such as Crass drummer Penny Rimbaud’s evocative (if esoteric) autobiography Shibboleth (published in 1998) have pushed hard to challenge the movement’s exclusion, but the balance of new publishing has continually reinforced its omission.

The fact that anarcho-punk is at last beginning to receive some long overdue recognition and re-examination is not the reflection of a change of heart amongst the writers of traditional punk history, but principally because the movement’s own alumni have begun to take up the challenge themselves. As different elements of this parallel account reach the shelves, the result is an increasingly rich anarchist-infused alter-history of punk.

This new wave of anarcho-punk publishing is part of a mini cultural retrospective on the movement’s work and worth. While there is absolutely no possibility of Crass following suit, a number of long-disbanded anarcho bands have recently reformed to play reunion gigs. Overground Records have released a four-part compilation CD collection, beginning with the spirited 23-track Anti-War collection in 2006. Further books are in the pipeline from AK Press; more releases from the audio archives are imminent; and the first of a number of new anarcho-punk documentaries have recently secured festival cinema screenings or direct-to-DVD release.

There is much to recommend in the insights of both works, even if neither can be expected to escape the constraint of having to satisfy the interests of the publishers of the pop music histories who contracted their authors.

George Berger’s The Story of Crass adopts the same straightforward chronological approach of his earlier biography of folk-punksters The Levellers, to document the history of anarcho-punk’s most conspicuous catalyst. Berger begins with a focus on the pre-punk creative activities of the founding members of the band and of Dial House, revealing some interesting and little known stories of the counter-cultural experiments that preceded the engagement with punk. Although Berger does not make the point explicitly, what this shows is how far outside the confines of the official anarchist movement Crass came from – something that is hugely significant in understanding anarcho-punk’s often fraught relationship with its more traditional anarchist allies in the years which followed. Berger writes entertainingly enough, although many readers are likely to find his frequent nod-and-wink asides to the reader quickly become irritating rather than endearing.

Securing interviews with all members of the Crass collective (save the reluctant guitarist Andy Palmer), Berger’s work is at its most successful in making space for the oral testimony of the group. Although not all voices get equal space, Berger allows former band members to describe in detail recollections many of which have never been articulated in the public domain before. Through these words, the sometimes strikingly different individual perspectives which existed behind the uniform, collective persona of Crass to find expression. These voices illuminate the key moments in the evolution, peak and subsequent fragmentation and decline of the original anarcho-punk explosion, as seen from the band’s unique perspective.

For context, Berger relies rather too heavily on the published Crass canon – the 1982 collection of essays A Series of Shock Slogans and Mindless Token Tantrums and the 1984 farewell statement In Which Crass Voluntarily Blown Their Own. Berger does try to identify some of the more important political controversies with which anarcho-punk became identified. Such debates included: the validity of an anarchist politics based on individual self-will; the utility of militant pacifism; and the means by which the alienated politics and practice of the Leninist far-left could best be challenged. The author deserves credit for getting such political questions aired in a music biography, even if the complex issues that these raise are left largely hanging as Berger’s attention turns instead to the next release in the Crass catalogue.

In Dancing The Storm, Berger’s love for the music of The Levellers comes clearly across on almost every page. In The Story of Crass it is less consistently clear that Berger likes what he hears. In fact, there’s more of a sense that he considers the noise the band made is the stuff that you had to put up with to get access to the more valuable elements of the subculture itself. He dismisses the uncompromising late-period Yes Sir I Will LP and You’re Already Dead single pretty much out of hand and wishes that the earlier (and ultimately less ‘difficult’) Christ The Album had been the band’s final release.

As this suggests, Berger is not a deferential author and this is in no sense a Crass hagiography. He does have several axes to grind – and is particularly keen to rubbish what he sees as Crass’s ‘self-defeating’ hostility to the music press. For him, the decision to refuse to co-operate with the likes of Sounds and the NME in favour of an ‘over-romanticised’ fanzine network was sheer folly. In this, he suggests, Crass mistook self-imposed isolation for autonomy, and in the process made an ideology out of the DIY impulse. At moments like this, the conceptual and political gap between the author and his subject appears at its widest.

At the core of Berger’s narrative lies an unarticulated assumption that the ambitions of the anarcho-punk were so unattainable (and the punk vehicle for their realisation so completely inadequate), that Crass should have been willing to negotiate compromises the better to secure goals that were within the movement’s grasp. If, in the end, anarcho-punk has to be accepted as little more than an interesting musical distemper, such a view would appear as less than heretical. Those who rate anarcho-punk’s revolutionary merits higher than this will be disappointed that this first biography of Crass is so keen to suggest that, in refusing to compromise its autonomy, anarcho-punk was its own worst enemy. Despite these and other tendentious conclusions, Berger’s book remains an essential read for anyone interested in the headline history of anarchist punk.

The Day The Country Died: A History of Anarcho-Punk 1980-1984
by Ian Glasper
2006 Cherry Red
ISBN 1-901447-7-07
375 pages
£11.29 from Housmans

An invaluable companion to the biography of Crass, is Ian Glasper’s The Day the Country Died, the second in a trilogy of works documenting the history of British punk rock post-1979. Like its predecessor, Burning Britain, this volume offers a fanzine-inspired collection of interviews with the members of dozens of (in this case anarcho-) punk bands, grouped by regional scene. The inexplicable absence of Poison Girls notwithstanding, the oral testimony assembled here provides an often-lucid participant’s view of the work of the wider anarcho-punk milieu, which demonstrates just as tellingly the diversity as well as the commonality by which it was defined.

Although light on context and analysis, what the collection hints at throughout is the extent to which – within a militant anti-war, anti-work, ‘anti-system’ framework – the perception and priorities of the movement’s activists differed: something the movement’s critics (who were always keen to deride the uniformity of the ‘Crass punks’) rarely understood. Above all, even though Glasper’s attention is fixed firmly on the subculture’s musical output, The Day the Country Died cumulatively illustrates how simplistic the myth is which insists that Crass simply ‘led’ an anarcho-punk movement that dutifully ‘followed’ its directives.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Jan 29 2016 10:58

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ultraviolet
Feb 1 2016 11:53

I only heard of Crass a few months ago and only started listening to their music in the last month. So my opinion is limited by the fact that I don’t know much about them or about punk in general.

I think what I admire most about Crass is that their goal was to use music to communicate revolutionary ideas and inspire people to revolutionary action. I wish this was more often the case with music of all genres! Even K-pop. (Especially K-pop!)

Crass’s ideological nonviolence meant their concept of revolution was not viable. However, their dedication to overturning the system was sincere. And near the end of their existence, members of Crass were rejecting nonviolence (according to a friend of mine who is a Crass fan).

The political message they communicated was often quite simplistic and incomplete. But this is a natural limitation of the medium of music. In isolation, music cannot inspire a revolution. But as part of a broader struggle, music with a political message can play an important role with the potential to draw in many who otherwise would not be reached. And I think Crass deserves credit for drawing untold numbers of youth into anarchism, however basic and incomplete that notion of anarchism was – at least it got them moving in the right direction. If class struggle anarchists had a larger presence at the time, these anarcho-punks would have been perfect candidates for being open and receptive to their ideas, and eager to join in the struggle.

Also, despite the simplicity and incompleteness of their political message, their music managed to communicate something that can’t be communicated in writing, speeches, or even conversation – a raw emotional and visceral expression of the horrors and harms of living in capitalist society. This is one thing that makes their music outstanding even to someone who recognizes the ways Crass’s political message falls short. On top of that, there are also certain songs that are really amazing in their lyrics and message, as well. I’m not saying these songs were about to inspire the revolution, but they could really help you see so clearly and feel so deeply the sickness and fuckedupedness of certain things.

Sleeper
Feb 1 2016 21:40

I think Crass had a real impact on people who came out of the punk generation looking for something more important than the sex pistols and the clash. Their lyrics, music, philosophy and reach makes them far more important than any of the more well known 'punk' bands...

Steven.
Feb 1 2016 23:18
Sleeper wrote:
I think Crass had a real impact on people who came out of the punk generation looking for something more important than the sex pistols and the clash. Their lyrics, music, philosophy and reach makes them far more important than any of the more well known 'punk' bands...

except their politics were rubbish and their music was utterly awful

Fleur
Feb 1 2016 23:46

I think some people are looking back at that whole punk scene with slightly rose tinted glasses. My brief foray into it was one of the things which totally put me off calling myself an anarchist for years, even though looking back that was clearly what I was. I came across so many people with god-awful politics. It was overpopulated with badly behaved anarcho-dudebros, and I never went to a gig or punk inclined pub without being groped, touched up or harassed in some way, all by people who were allegedly comrades. And I agree with Steven, the music was awful, endlessly preachy and about as subtle as being hit by a brick. I would hope that the punk scene has got better. Personally I'm inclined agree with Albert Meltzer who opined that punk was one of the worse things to happen to anarchism, a bit harsh maybe but it attracted so many lifestylist clueless idiots.

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 00:10

Correction - some of their politics were rubbish, understandable considering most of their early songs were written by a 17 year old boy. People always make these sweeping criticisms based on hearing one or two songs and with no knowledge whatsoever of what they did outside of music and no idea how inspirational they were to young working class people in the late 70s/early 80s.

Some of the music was awful but as above, people know very little of it. Some of the later stuff was fucking ace. That said, I agree that the appeal of punk music was a hindrance in many ways. It created a pretty narrow audience.
As with many things you had to be there. For me the difference between these genuine caring angry and sincere men and women and the fake revolutionary pretensions of The Clash and other political rockers was night and day. Those fuckers were downright embarrassing at times.

Crass put community and mutual aid into practice. It's easy to scoff from the sidelines but there is a whole load more to them than people realise. The whole Crass thing set me on the path of understanding how capitalism works and how it fucks us all in the arse on a daily basis. For that at least they deserve a bit of credit.

As an observer on the outside speaking without prejudice or cultural snobbery UVs comment nails it.

Edit; My comment is a response to Steven's post. Cross posted with Fleur. There is truth in what she says and I know for a fact that bands were aware of the number of sexist dicks they attracted. My points still stand though and I repeat there is a shit load of snobbery around this as well as a massive hole in people's understanding of exactly what they were about and the things that they did. Bergers book is a pretty good source of information but I don't think that many around here will be interested. For good or bad, Crass etc should be recognised as having a place in recent anarchist history and not just dismissed with a snooty look down the nose as they so often are.

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 00:16

Rob Ray, what was your purpose in posting this on Libcom? I'm glad you did and would be interested to hear more of your thoughts.

redsdisease
Feb 2 2016 02:00
Noah Fence wrote:
Some of the music was awful but as above, people know very little of it. Some of the later stuff was fucking ace.

Eh, as someone who really likes punk and used to listen to a lot of Crass out of some sort of misplaced, anarcho-punk loyalty, I'd say that they have no more than a handful of songs that could be considered anything but awful.

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 07:51
redsdisease wrote:
Noah Fence wrote:
Some of the music was awful but as above, people know very little of it. Some of the later stuff was fucking ace.

Eh, as someone who really likes punk and used to listen to a lot of Crass out of some sort of misplaced, anarcho-punk loyalty, I'd say that they have no more than a handful of songs that could be considered anything but awful.

That's some admission right there. You think a handful of songs are ok? Well I can't think of any band that can do any better than that. Come on RD, just admit it, you lurve Crass! I can just picture you in front of the mirror in smelly black combats using a veggie sausage as a microphone. Don't be shy, that's exactly how I start my day. Don't forget to put the rose coloured specs though, it's not the same without them.

Steven.
Feb 2 2016 09:40
Noah Fence wrote:
For me the difference between these genuine caring angry and sincere men and women and the fake revolutionary pretensions of The Clash and other political rockers was night and day.

Sorry, but I take quality over sincerity, every time. The Clash were good; Crass were shite.

That said I'm always open to challenge my assumptions. TBH I haven't listened to that many Crass songs because the ones I actually heard were so appalling. So go on let me know what the best one is and I will give that a go (and then bestow judgement upon it).

James MacBryde
Feb 2 2016 10:35

'Jesus died for his sins not mine' Crass, `5000`, 1978

Shit on religion, shit on politics, shit musically; but in my opinion absolutely brilliant on comic value. Like someone said, it is the mindset of a 17 year kid and was certainly appreciated by a 11 year old kid.

'Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine' Patti Smith, `Gloria`, 1974

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 12:00

Ah well, music's value is subjective innit? I'll see what I can rustle up Steven but you know, never the twain and all that.
I notice though that nobody slagging off the whole deal has tackled Rob Rays points. The easy route of 'they were shit' is usually preferable than proper engagement when you just don't like something. I do myself of course, I mean using that stinkiest of all the smelly old droning hippies, Patti Smith as an argument against anything at all just doesn't stand up.

Rob Ray
Feb 2 2016 13:20

It's one of a few reviews which originally went up in Freedom Newspaper, I'm moving over the better ones that I have permission for.

As for thoughts, I tend to disagree with the whole "punk was bad for anarchism" thing. Yes it was a subculture involving lots of people who interpreted anarchist theory in odd or silly ways, but that'll happen when a large number of people take up a new idea all at once.

Fact is the populace is brought up to be reactionary, sexist, racist etc, so in any thousand people you care to find there will be a large proportion with fucked-up ideas even after they've declared themselves this or that. Punk, the hippies, the green movement, all of them had lots of people talking shite, and all of them subsequently provided people who became dedicated, long term, switched-on activists.

"Punk anarky" did get picked on by the media and as a result had some annoying impacts on how broader society perceived anarchism, but again, that always happens and would do regardless of whether the movement was made up entirely of crusties or impeccably polite, well dressed trade unionist charmers. The problem is not that it was held up as "what anarchism does" but that it could be without most people being any the wiser because the broader movement was so tiny, with so little reach and so few resources.

Fleur
Feb 2 2016 17:38

OK, getting away from whether or not Crass were crap, most of us have music from our youth which still holds great emotional resonance, my issue is the lionization of punk as being something with far more political significance than simply a music genre and subculture. It obviously didn’t attract 100,000s of young people into anarchism, any more than black metal attracts 100,000s of people into satanism. For some people it was an introduction to anarchism, however ideologically flawed, and they stuck with it and developed a better critical thinking about it. For a lot of people it was just their youth culture and they moved on.

When I was a kid I used to roll my eyes at the oldies who would rattle on about the 60s and how (insert whatever hippy or radical thing they did) was so pivotal and life changing. I remember thinking that for a small number of people it was probably was but for most it was just music and fashion and they were living off nostalgia for a pop culture they participated in. I think it’s the same thing, except that punk has been so inextricably associated with anarchism, even if much of the self-identified “anarchism” of the period wasn’t actually anarchism. I understand peoples’ attachment to it, it was their in route to radical politics, but punk within anarchism has become a bit of a sacred cow. To suggest that it has been ignored, as the reviewer did, isn’t true. I just did a search on the AK Press catalogue on the word “punk” and I came up with 171 hits.

Anarcho-punk did take some anarchistic ideas such as squatting and the DIY culture but none of this was new and certainly in the case of squatting it wasn’t nearly as well organized as the radical housing initiatives of the 60s or 70s. You could argue that Crass practiced mutual aid but so do a lot of organizations and that alone doesn’t make something anarchist. My local Unitarian church practices mutual aid on a pretty large scale but I would think that most of the nice liberals who participate would be a bit appalled to be called anarchist. Crass lived in a nice hippy commune in a massive house in the country and I suspect this is one of the reasons why accusations of them being completely out of touch with the young urban punks of the time have been leveled at them.

I’m sure they are very nice people but I have a hard time analyzing this because I really don’t understand the raising of heroes. I think I’ve read one famous person’s autobiography in my life. If someone’s art stands up on merit then that’s good enough for me but I really don’t care about them personally or what they have to say on a myriad of subjects. I see punk as just another fandom, substantially little different to Deadheads or the Beyhive. Throw in my opinion that political music is almost always really crap, I just don’t see why punk has become fetishized as something special.

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 19:46

Apart from a few innacuracies(it's actually a fairly modest farm workers cottage) and disagreement that political music is always crap(how's about Bob Dylan) I wouldn't really disagree too much with Fleur's points. Nostalgia? Of course, I wouldn't deny that for a second. Populated by 'Dude bros' Christ, yes, at least it became so after a while. I don't think that these things negate the value that I see in the whole thing.
I looked at Steven's challenge and have to admit that listening with the ear of someone with no emotional connection I couldn't really choose a track that he wouldn't think was lousy. That said, the scene wasn't all about jackhammer punk screaming. It was something of a hotbed for the nurturing of young talent giving many their first stab at making music. For instance, I saw the 16 year old Bjork fronting the somewhat abstract punk band Kukl at the long standing ambulance station squat in the Old Kent Road. My band did a couple of tours with DIRT and Antisect, the latter of whom were highly influential in the creation of a modernised and less moronic style of metal. Then there were Flux of Pink Indians who by 1985 were producing a form of dance music that still sits well in with my other records if I'm playing a downtempo set. They then went on to form the record label One Little Indian which released many of the best 90s dance and crossover tunes.
It still all means something to me as my political isolation was at least for a while relieved by it and the people involved in making the music, many of whom I knew personally were infinitely preferable to the trendy left liberals or workerist wanksticks that I rubbed shoulders with in my other attempts at engagement.

Steven, not Crass, but absolutely directly linked to them is this;
http://youtu.be/5XjHdHa_aVo
Listen to at least 3 minutes before you switch off and hit me with your critique.

Shorty
Feb 2 2016 19:58

I saw Penny Rimbaud do spoken word a few years ago (could probably just end that sentence there grin ) and thought his politics were crap, so did a lot of the crowd who I think like others had a youthful emotional connection to Crass' music but had since gone on to develop better politics.

I like what the free association wrote here and found it interesting.
http://freelyassociating.org/when-two-sevens-clash-punk-and-autonomia/

Fleur
Feb 2 2016 21:11

I think you may have a slightly definition of modest farm workers cottage, Dial House being a 16th century listed building. My great uncle lived in a farm workers cottage, it only had two rooms and kitchen cobbled onto the back, whereas -

I think the following video adequately sums up my opinions on Dylan and his whiney, nasal, guitar strumming contemporaries.

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 21:25

I think I'll give up now. In know the facts and that'll do me. Even if it was a big house so what? With a dozen people sometimes living there it's hardly indulgent. I rent a listed building in the country, it's a damn site cheaper than a house in the town. And I like Bob Dylan. So there!!!
http://youtu.be/n6qbteDZJ64

Fleur
Feb 2 2016 21:34

My point is I just don't get the hero worship. I don't really get it with any celebrity but it seems especially weird for anarchists. Maybe it's because I don't see artists as anything more special or worthy of looking up to than anyone else.

Sleeper
Feb 2 2016 21:50

To be fair I think Crass have reflected different politics at different times. Does that sound familiar Steven?

I'm not a huge fan but I do realise that they did manage to keep some basic anarchist ideas alive and kicking at times when it was really needed and I think they will continue to...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMoQYbfj59s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apQQAYJZKLc

Steven. wrote:
Sleeper wrote:
I think Crass had a real impact on people who came out of the punk generation looking for something more important than the sex pistols and the clash. Their lyrics, music, philosophy and reach makes them far more important than any of the more well known 'punk' bands...

except their politics were rubbish and their music was utterly awful

Noah Fence
Feb 2 2016 22:19

I take issue with the idea that I'm motivated by hero worship. Good or bad was the ideas that really hooked me. Admiring tenacity and integrity is not hero worship. If it were I would have a number of heroes on Libcom and that is never gonna happen.

Fleur
Feb 2 2016 22:43

Not you but the whole nostalgia business around this. How many records did these people ever produce and how many words have been spent on it? I'm guessing there was some kind of anniversary a couple of years back because there were articles and interviews all over the place. I just see the whole period, which was no more than 5 years, as just another ephemeral pop culture phenom.

And it's probably got a lot to do with me. I'm a very much not a nostalgic person and have very few sentimental feelings about the past. I just move on and don't see any value in going back to things which interested me in the past.

Chilli Sauce
Feb 3 2016 02:56
Quote:
disagreement that political music is always crap(how's about Bob Dylan)

That's a fair point Webby - I mean, the Clash are pretty awesome wink

Noah Fence
Feb 3 2016 04:04
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
disagreement that political music is always crap(how's about Bob Dylan)

That's a fair point Webby - I mean, the Clash are pretty awesome ;-)

Ok, so here's my second favourite 70s punk record
http://youtu.be/7TcKiC2yB0s
Ok? Ya got me. We must never ever forget the red berets though, I mean, cringe.

The best 70s punk record?
http://youtu.be/rTfyUqVqX-0
By a country mile

Now enough with the 'Webby' already!

Lugius
Feb 3 2016 07:47

I wrote a critique (under the nom de plume, Buenaventura Makhno) of Crass's pacifism and published in London punk fanzine 'Kill Your Pet Puppy'. They (actually Penny Rimbaud) wrote a 5-page reply and invited me to debate at their commune in Epping Forest.

I went with the editor, Tony D, and about 15 minutes in I realised they pretty much had no idea about anarchism. Basically, they were hippies.

I wrote the critique after the complete farce at Red Lion Square. Unbelievable.

Noah Fence
Feb 3 2016 12:40
Lugius wrote:

I wrote a critique (under the nom de plume, Buenaventura Makhno) of Crass's pacifism and published in London punk fanzine 'Kill Your Pet Puppy'. They (actually Penny Rimbaud) wrote a 5-page reply and invited me to debate at their commune in Epping Forest.

I went with the editor, Tony D, and about 15 minutes in I realised they pretty much had no idea about anarchism. Basically, they were hippies.

I wrote the critique after the complete farce at Red Lion Square. Unbelievable.

Wow, I'm pretty sure I once had this fanzine. Dirk was a terrific album.
The funny thing here is, no matter what anyone says, I know absolutely how I feel and the effect that the whole thing had on me. I knew then as I know now that the scene was vastly populated by fashion anarchists, sexist idiots and even fascists. It's not really a surprise. For me though, my way of looking at the world around me was altered forever. I became a person that wanted a better world, wanted to learn, wanted to act and wanted nothing to do with liberalism, social democracy or any authoritarian left politics. It was my way in, I met some amazing people, toured the country playing gigs and had a fair amount of fun as well. Nothing anyway says will change that, period.
There are so many opinions about the whole thing, a consensus will never be reached. I mean, FFS, I just read this on another new thread;

Quote:
Stations of the crass
Even though socialists critique the majority of anarchists for their gradualism, reformism and avoidance of a political means to abolish capitalism, nonetheless the anarchist punk band Crass wrote many songs with which as a socialist I strongly identified. The songs on the album Penis Envy – possibly the greatest feminist musical work ever – featured sharp and humorous put downs of patriarchy (Beta Motel, Berkertex Bribe, Smother Love, Dry Weather), scathingly ironic descriptions of the life development of workers from birth to death (Systematic Death), and a brilliant critique of the left and the right's ideology (Where Next Columbus? – with the attack upon Marxists clearly one upon Marx's many false prophets who sprouted in the 20th Century after his death). Crass's album Stations of the Crass excavated as completely as is possible on four sides of a double-album the bowels of capitalist power, exploitation, war, poverty, ideology, and culture. These two albums remain possibly two of the finest works of political songwriting to date.

wojtek
Feb 4 2016 01:36

Maybe the UK should have gotten kawaii like the Japanese hehe.

James MacBryde
Feb 4 2016 15:51

I agree with my comrade Noah Fence. It doesn't matter that the Crass people live in a big house in the country or that Peter Tosh lived in a suburban mansion. Without them many of us wouldn't have heard of anarchy/black liberation. I just have a penchant for melody, which was sorely lacking in Crass but I guess that was a conscious effort or else they never had a chance to learn an instrument.

I like the self-parody of Anti-Nowhere League:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c6MlrPESdDI

As for Bob Dylan, I don't consider his songs to be political unlike his inspiration, Woody Guthrie, who's songs positively were:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wxiMrvDbq3s

freemind
Feb 4 2016 17:08

I was a big Crass fan and their agitprop,artwork and unique sound affected me.I remember hearing Reality Asylum and smashed it up as I was 13 and it disturbed me as I believed in God at the timeLater Crass' anti religious tone helped me towards Atheism but in later years you realise the lack of politics and that they are life stylists not Anarchists and as Bergers book reveals they knew nothing of Anarchist history.
Conflict were little better and they and there hangers on still owe money that was never payed or accounted for is;donations to the Bustfund and cash given for video copies never received.
Punk wasn't Anarchist at all.That twat Johnny Rotten couldn't find a word to rhyme with "antichrist" and chose Anarchist not out of political belief but verbal expediency.
Punk is primarily music and if it prompts you in the right direction ok but it's just sad hype for nihilistic teens in the end.

Fleur
Feb 4 2016 19:08

It doesn't actually matter if they were living in Versailles Palace, just suggesting that their rural life without strife lifestyle was contributory to their general clueless nature. Certainly in relation to the violence at Red Lion Square, you would have to be a bit out of touch not to know that it was a big problem at the time of neo-nazi skinheads turning up to fight and recruit. Their refusal on ideological grounds of pacifism to not have bouncers to protect their fans from this or their refusal to substantially take sides, even blaming the SWP for this (you can blame the SWP for a lot of things but not Nazis wanting to beat up punks) is just indicative to me that they really were a bit clueless politically.

Given that I'm in a very slightly less grumpy mood today, I'll concede that it wasn't all bad, that there were bands at the time with a better grasp of anarchism, who didn't mistake musical ineptitude with edginess and actually produced good songs.

A cookie for the first person who can recognize these lyrics.

Quote:
There's some hard times coming down
There's the smell of revolution on the wind
Well, we're grinding down our axes
Telling tales round the bonfire at night
We will set out with a fire in our hearts
When this darkness gives way to the dawn
In the light we're united as one
For the kingdom of heaven must be taken by storm!

Cooked
Feb 4 2016 20:10

Smells of Amebix...

About Crass being good or not. I've never been a huge fan, only listened sporadically. But the early discussion on this thread is quite strange. Presumably everyone here knows that music comes with a context. It being good music is often, and this is not a problem. a minor aspect. There's lots of music I don't "listen" to but instead just immerse myself in and get some sort of quality out of.

Crass is pretty good at communicating a well crafted atmosphere. I like how they manage to be so close to not being music and still somehow being quite pop. There's a special chaotic energetic vibe to them. And up-beat negativity.

Again it needs a context. Not great headphone music unless you happen to carry the context inside.