12 Crass Songs by Jeffrey Lewis

 

A little while ago my favourite radio station BBC 6music regularly played tracks by American ‘Anti-Folk’ singer Jeffery Lewis. I like his style- witty, intelligent, satirical, left of centre and just generally pleasant to listen to.

 

From telling great stories as in “Back When I Was Four”- a guy growing to 128 whilst children, girlfriends, Dogs and Goldfish all come and go, to stories of drug hell “Last Time I Did Acid I Went Insane” to songs about people misunderstanding his songs “No LSD Tonight”- despite the horror described in “Last Time I Did Acid…”, people still offer him Acid at his shows. Not forgetting the brilliant view on youth culture that is “I Saw A Hippy Girl On 8th Street”- he realises he doesn’t look hippy anymore, and is blending in with everyone else and his mate, Eric, doesn’t look like a Punk anymore, but then you realise how you feel on the inside is more important than how you look on the outside. Fantastic.

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Exploring his material threw up an album called “12 Crass Songs”, I wondered if it was what it said, ie 12 songs by anarcho-punk rockers Crass, covered in his own inimitable style.

 

It is.

 

It is also a fantastic introduction to Crass, especially if the harder side of Punk isn’t to your taste. I’d not particularly given them much of a listen- just thought they were a bit shouty and aggressive with the usual fuck the system stance. What I hadn’t realised was the intelligence behind the lyrics, and indeed, their anarchistic politic is actually much closer to my own political stance than I had ever imagined. And much closer to proper ‘Hippy’ ideology- what with self-sustenance, conservation and DIY ethics as parts of their manifesto- it all looks like a great way to live.

 

In “12 Crass Songs”, we get tracks which dealt with how we are dragged along by ‘The System’- and pushed into stereotypes having our lives planned out for us to ‘be normal’- “Systematic Death”, commentaries from ‘outside’ the system in “I Ain’t Thick”- clued up in the mind, but not treading the party-line, the dehumanising thought of being reduced to nothing in “End Result”, demanding something back in “Do They Owe Us A Living?”, the topical feel of “Securicor” (read G4S)- “I’m a private in a private army- Securicor scares the shit out of me.” and the ultimate statement of what happens when relevant youth movements become taken into the system, accepted and packaged (Postcards of Punks in London? Remember that?)- “Punk IS Dead”.

 

I am now acquainting myself with all things Crass- as a lot of it makes a lot of sense. Here is a documentary by Penny Rimbaud of Crass about the band.

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Have a listen to the album, and maybe buy yourself a copy. Here is Jeffrey Lewis’ website- lots of great things there.

[Spotify playlist of 12 Crass Songs by Jeffrey Lewis here]

 

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