ALBUM REVIEWS


Crass
TEN NOTES ON A SUMMER'S DAY
CRASSICAL 14.5.12
@www.vanguard-online.co.uk



By 1984 Crass had been on quite a journey. From the furore that was Feeding Of The Five Thousand to the more structured but still manic pinnacle that was Stations Of The Crass to the the avant-garde experimentations of Christ The Album to the hard to hear, because of the vocals, Penis Envy and the hard to listen to hectoring and squealing of Yes Sir I Will. By this point Crass had painted themselves into a corner. Always hippies, many in the audience who had swallowed Maclaren’s sub-situationist “never trust a hippy” nonsense had formed an emotional attachment to the deliberately crude punk output of early Crass. Even now the first two albums sound good for a wake-up call. Yet Crass had been moving out of the punk stylistic borders for some time, keeping punk (and hippy!) values more than intact. The signs had been there in the gigs – practically art installations, stuffed with film, art, happenings alongside screaming noise and drunk punks flinging themselves from the balcony.

Ten Notes For A Summer Day sees musical extrapolation – free-jazz sounds, gentle rolling drums, strummed acoustic guitar, drones, crooned vocals – mixed up with the occasional angry outbursts of Steve Ignorant (on “side one” – “side two” is an instrumental). The polemic is present and correct but more adult, blended with irony, sarcasm and a sense of sadness. The set isn’t exactly jazz but it certainly isn’t punk and it most definitely wasn’t going to sound good on a tinny battery cassette player in a tent at a peace camp outside an airbase. The fire that had inspired a million stencils in 1978, the one that said “we’re furious, this is all wrong, we can change it” had mellowed into an accommodation if not an acceptance. The band had realised the world wasn’t going to change but their work had made a change nonetheless. That faltering in belief is a downwards spiral and this album was never going to inspire a new listener, just entertain the old ones.

There’s not much about the music here because Crass was never really about the music, it was about the ideas and the community. The two original pieces here are, of course, extended, often drifting across landscapes of random piano, synth sweeps over ten minutes a piece. Southern have appended four other tracks to fill out the CD version. It is the most musically accomplished and least effective set. The band clearly spent a good deal of time constructing it (as they had their long and frequently collaged singles). From a historical perspective it is an essential listen to understand where you can go from polemical punk and to understand the borderline between hippy and punk. As a swansong to Crass it is as wilful and eclectic as the rest of their output.


Ross McGibbon

www.myspace.com/crasscrass