Review Summary: As an anarchist statement, few albums are as powerful. As a musical venture, few albums are as sloppy, repetitive and....strangely compelling.
Crass is generally credited with starting the anarcho-punk movement and not without reason. Sure, the word "anarchy" had been thrown around by the Sex Pistols, but this was more of a joke designed to shock the stuffy English upper classes. Crass was the first group to take the idea seriously. The band has had an inestimable influence on both punk rock and anarchism. As such, it is hard to call the band over-rated in this regard, but as a musical group Crass suffered from repetitiveness, poor production and all around poor musicianship. The Feeding of the 5000 is no exception.
The album created huge amounts of controversy even before it was released. Workers at the pressing plant refused to manufacture the record, as they felt the lyrics of the opener "Asylum" were blasphemous. And they are. In the extreme. I think it would be hard to find a statement so hateful of Christianity anywhere else. In response to this Crass simply replaced the track with 2 minutes of silence entitled "The Sound of Free Speech". As a statement it is extremely effective in its simplicity, but it is impossible to judge it as a song. Most of the rest of the album follows a similar pattern.
One thing that makes the album sound so awful is the production. Guitars are almost entirely drowned out by the vocals and drums, and the bass can barely be heard in a few tracks.The listener isn't missing much, as the guitar parts are simple and repetitive in the extreme. While this is pretty much standard in punk rock, Crass takes it to a boring, mind numbing extreme. Repetitiveness isn't limited to the guitars. Listen to the drum intros in "Banned at The Roxy" and "You Pay". Exactly the same. The rest of the drum work follows a similar pattern as drummer, Paul Rimbaud, takes a simple but original drum beat and plays it at varying tempos for a half hour.
The album is not without it's share of gems however. "Banned At the Roxy", while being very similar to the rest of the songs on the album, is simply done a step better. The lyrics are delivered with a vitriolic snarl that is far more powerful than the rest of the vocal delivery, and the lyrics are smartly written and very good to shout along to.
In fact, the lyrics are easily the best thing about the album. Crasses primary motivation was spreading their message and at this they succeed admirably. Lyrics are intelligent, angry and sometimes humorous. This is how the album best shows that the musicianship takes a backseat to the message, as the message is clearly and carefully thought out and communicated with a passion that unfortunately does not extend to the instrumentation.
Rating this album proved very difficult, because as a piece of music it fails almost entirely, and as a protest and statement of ideals it is one of the most successful ventures in the history of audio recording. As music I would rate the album a 2. For it's historical impact and effectiveness I would rate it as a 5. I would have to put the final rating somewhere in the middle ground with a 3.