Review Summary: “Anarchy and Freedom is what I want”
Crass was at the forefront of the punk movement in the late 70’s. Being one of the first punk outfits too act out and stand by their causes garnered a superfluous amount of attention. By organizing supporters for protest in various forms and making the act more than music; Crass made itself an important name in punk. Establishing a D.I.Y. art punk aesthetic by creating an artistic collective among the band and fans the early stages of anarcho-punk were being developed. Film, art, poetry and music of all forms were brought to the forefront of the movement due to this band/collective. Together these artists established work that touched the likes of anti- government, anti-mainstream culture, anti-racism, environmentalism, feminism and anti-war. They did not leave anything worth mentioning or doing untouched. The band succeeded in creating wide awareness of these subjects; oftentimes straddling a line of creative and “crass” but quite expected from a punk rock band.
“Stations of the Crass” is no exception. Dancing hurriedly between segues of experimentation and up-tempo aggressive punk all the while parodying mainstream culture as well as figuratively spitting in its face, Crass crafted an undeniably spasmodic release. “Stations of the Crass” is a goblet of communal wine aged to taste dissonant. The brooding anger and oftentimes silly/ignorant feelings proposed both lyrical and musically on this album intermingle but do not consistently blend, overlapping and creating the said dissonant taste. At times the songs are even childish and snarky both lyrically and musically; that’s punk, isn’t it? The practical disregard of logical song structure makes the album fun in a multitude of senses. It’s not the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus punk music that is so commonly watered down to appeal to mainstream listeners. As a matter of fact the album itself is bereft of logical song placement. Spoken word poetry is placed in between tracks that carry a large amount of the momentum found on the album and the diversity from track to track comes across as entirely off kilter. The strange thing is that Crass made inconsistency the one constant. While that statement to some may seem like a train wreck waiting to happen in these particular instances it benefits the album.
The production (as well as overall songwriting) of the album even hangs in the balance of poor and suitable. The mix for the most part does the album justice; at times some instruments seem altogether thin or nonexistent. The vocals as well as drums were produced sufficiently while the bass tone feels thicker and more present than the guitars albeit the more up-tempo tracks where both the production and heart of the band are displayed at a pinnacle. On these ideally up-tempo punk tracks the instrumentation interlocks in a way befitting and identifiably punk.
Undoubtedly the best part of the album is delivery of the vocals both tonally and lyrically. The sneering accent and distribution of subject matter puzzle piece together in a perfectly fitting manner. In tracks like “Big Man, Big M.A.N.,” strong cultural statements are made in a silly/serious sort of manner. Managing to downplay society’s viewpoint on a man’s life by not only stating the reality but also ruling out “what it takes to be a real man”, all the while making a political statement, calling “the man” the government and carrying both military and government based analogies into it. Couple skillfully contrived lyrical themes such as this with an aggressive stance and an equally fit vocal performance key and the essence of Crass is born.
Crass’s “Stations of the Crass” is far from without flaw. At times it lingers on uninteresting jokes or experimentation that falls flat altogether. The composition of the music is at time entirely lackluster and uncreative; sometimes totally lazy. For example the lyrics and vocal performance on tunes like” Darling” are purely annoying. While this song is more than likely a statement on pop music and the trending (at the time) post punk movement it remains unneeded to the average listener and can be easily disregarded. The extraneous flaws of this release are surely subjective in a much wider sense than the aforementioned but do fall upon similar lines.
“Stations of the Crass” is at times a difficult album to digest. The fluctuating themes, spasmodic delivery and experimental dives lead it to be almost frustrating. A large amount of material is presented on the release; it takes an equally large amount of time to sift through and find the enjoyable segues. Like many hidden gems the experimental and artistic sides of the album are the easiest segments to overlook and also some of the most key players. Crass created both a groundbreaking and befuddling beast with this one; its depth can easily be written off due to its childish displays. For these same reasons it will/has been embraced lovingly. Love it or leave it, anarchy and freedom is what Crass wanted. What do you want?