I thought it time to revisit one of the most important bands of my youth, and possibly my adulthood, Crass. Though most of their albums have hit the 30-year mark, they still hold more relevance and urgency to me than most of the bands that they influenced. The ongoing reissue of their catalog, dubbed “The Crassical Collection," has coincided with a recent tour and biography by vocalist Steve Ignorant. After getting his book, The Rest is Propaganda, as an import, I was reminded that they were the first band to “live the life” and embody the DIY ethic to the extent that they did.
Although The Rest is Propaganda was the most enjoyable of all of the Crass-related books I've read, drummer Penny Rimbaud’s book, Shibboleth: My Revolting Life, offers another look inside of the band from a founding member. Rimbaud professes a love for books written by England’s own Beat Generation – “The Angry Young Men.” Unfortunately, he seems to fancy himself one of them. His book overflowed with over-the-top metaphor that would be more fitting in fiction. There were several points in the book where, without explanation, Rimbaud comes in and out of fiction and nonfiction as if it was his own consciousness. In addition to the abstract writing, the book was much more focused on Rimbaud’s early life as a hippy, and the death of an influential friend. This is his biography, however, and not the band’s. I think the contrast between Rimbaud and Ignorant’s biographies and writing styles really illustrates the qualities that each person brought to the band, which is the essence of what made it so special.
More recently written by journalist George Berger, The Story of Crass tries its hand at documenting the band as a whole. Berger comes across more as a music critic than a documentarian, and peppers the account with his own value judgments and flippant comments. At times he seems more eager to belittle the band than to tell its story. The reader can still glean enough from the facts that are presented, however, to piece together how much the band changed punk from a style and a “file-under” category to an ethos. It’s nice to have the information presented, and to get a good feel for the band. But the author’s bizarre writing style and many grammatical errors make this confusing and weak for anyone but the long-time fan.
CD's by Crass are available for check-out at LFPL. Just click the links below to reserve a copy:
Stations of the Crass
The Feeding of the 5000