Crass
Penis Envy


5.0
classic

Review

by SandbitchButthole USER (20 Reviews)
September 7th, 2017 | 90 replies


Release Date: 1981 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Newly-wedded wife, this shouldn’t be your life.

Formed in 1977, Crass were undeniably the genuine article. An anarcho-punk rock group from the United Kingdom, they never signed to a major label, instead opting to release their work independently on their own label. And really, what’s more punk than learning the ins-and-outs of distribution to subvert the very system you turned your back on. After releasing the Feeding Of The Five Thousand and Stations Of The Crass in 1979, we arrive on Valentine’s Day 1981 with the blank stare of a Teenage Doll greeting us with open… mouth.

Penis Envy is a very big departure for the band in many respects. Gone are the usual angry male vocals provided by Steve Ignorant, with Eve Libertine (and Joy De Vivre on one listed track) taking the helm in his place. At this point in the band’s career, the girls of the band were utilized for backing vocals exclusively, so having them front an entire album was a bold move. The question is: did it pay off"

From the opening of “Bata Motel,” we’re greeted by a very familiar Crass formula, with a sample followed by the most beautiful noise you’ve ever heard. Libertine’s vox captures the deranged masochism and anger of the song perfectly, the drum work is a perfect backdrop to this meltdown caught on tape, and the guitar work by Phil Free, Pete Wright, and Andy Palmer just mesh into a rock-solid wall to slam into. I would be remiss to leave out the best part of the song (and the album in general): the pull-no-punches lyrics. Penis Envy is one of punk rock’s defining documents in my eyes, and a lot of that has to do with the lyrics and their delivery. On the very first track, we get a glimpse into the not-so-distant world of sexual abuse, submission, and the roles women played in society. The entire runtime of the album is about breaking these bonds and fighting right back. Its existence makes everyone uncomfortable, which is how you know it’s working:

“You force-hold me above the ground
I can't get away, my feet are bound
So I'm bound to say
That I'm bound to stay”

“Systematic Death” sprints through the lives of various people and how from birth to death, we are just cogs in the machine. The little boys and girls are groomed to be the little workingman and housewife of tomorrow, depicting the lives we lead with almost-frightening precision:

"Poor little fuckers, what a sorry pair
Had their lives stolen, but they didn't really care
Poor little darlings, just your ordinary folks
Victims of the system and its cruel jokes!"

One of the album’s highest points is the 7-minute “What the Fuck",” a brooding, atonal rant concerning the mistreatment of Earth and its resources. In less trustworthy hands, this could have been unbearable, but within what seems to be a cacophony is one of the most entrancing listens of the 1980s. More so than any Crass album following or prior following this one, Penis Envy captures a visceral disgust that most anyone can understand. While it does paint the band stressing the importance of environmentalism quite well, the main attraction is the song’s attack on the unfeeling greed some feel while doing just that:

"But would you see the fire in the world where you exist"
Will your hard eyes register the pain"
Are you so cold that there is no distress"
Where there’s death would you give death again""

Crass, being the shapeshifting beast that they are, complement their lyrics with tunes ranging from the pounding speeds of “Where Next Columbus"” and “Smother Love” to the African-influenced-stylings of “Berkertex Bribe” to even a bout in an uncharacteristically frail-sounding melody with “Health Surface,” which melds with Joy De Vivre’s wispy delivery until the song springs to life towards the very end.

The album culminates on the last track, which was originally not listed on the album. The song is convincing. If you were to isolate this track and separate it from the album, you might not even notice how conniving and cheeky it is. In fact, that’s very much what happened back in 1981, when popular romance magazine Loving had a giveaway for a plexi disk called “Wedding Song,” provided to them by a group by the name of Creative Recording And Sound Services. Yes indeed, Joy De Vivre’s heavenly voice was so convincing, they fooled a magazine and their readers into thinking she was being genuine. The harmless pranks of an anarchist group, no harm done.

No, of course there was harm done. Of course there was outcry, of course people were outraged by the album’s title (despite it being a reference to Sigmund Freud’s famous, if not outdated, terminology), and of course Crass and many other punk bands at the time faced consequences for putting their controversial art on display for all to see. But again, that’s what it was meant to do. Penis Envy was made solely because of how much unrest it would prompt. It’s a living, breathing document in punk and feminism whose message of unrest still holds truth today. As disappointing as that may be, use this album as your fuel just like Crass and their fans did so long ago. Get mad. Get upset. This is the change that needs to happen and it’s not going to happen in your wedding gown meekly saying “I do.”



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user ratings (119)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

How's that look on the front page, huh?



Bandcamp: https://crass.bandcamp.com/album/penis-envy

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6ORkJPKPUbVwoJ1Bnr0fA4

butcherboy
September 7th 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Classic fucking album and a class review.. a phallus-shaped pos in a white dress..

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@butcherboy ❤



There better be 99 ratings on this album by the time I wake up, or so help me

Papa Universe
September 7th 2017


21720 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

It happened!

Digging: N'Zwaa - Maha Kali

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Didn't even put on my pajamas yet. That's a pretty good rating too :D

ScuroFantasma
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2017


11706 Comments


Great review man, I'm convinced. Definitely going to give this a go, especially to hear that last track. Also it being on Bandcamp automatically makes me more likely to check it.

Digging: Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygene

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I knew the links were a good idea! Hope you like it.

ScuroFantasma
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2017


11706 Comments


"Crap just utter crap. Unrealistic politics, shitty music, and bad vocalists. They aren't even pretty! where is the appeal? Why would anybody buy it? It's no surprise that only teenage anarcho punks with no idea about REAL politics buy this dreck"

This 07 soundoff is amazing. It almost reads like satire but I really hope it's authentic. they aren't even pretty lol

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I saw that! I can't tell if it's genuine, but I can confirm the vocals are not pretty.

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Bump so I can see the word penis in the "new comments" section before the site crashes

http://i.imgur.com/21rHiLd.jpg

Divaman
September 7th 2017


3699 Comments


I'm totally negging you just to balance out butcherboy. (jk). Seriously, really nice job. Not familiar with the band, but I particularly like the name of their former lead singer.

Digging: Charly Bliss - Young Enough

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Diva. I don't know for sure, but I think this is the only Crass album that doesn't have Ignorant at all. What a cool name though, right?

Divaman
September 7th 2017


3699 Comments


I'm thinking of stealing it for myself. How does Diva Ignorant sound?

Or maybe just Deev Ignorant.

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Diva the Ignorant sounds like a killer barbarian's name, so that one.

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Of course the one day I post a review, the site goes under. Just peachy.

And a hurricane's about to, as this album puts it:

Spit on

Shit on

Totally confuse

Fuck up

Muck up

Totally abuse



my 1-story house

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

the hurricane irma of timing reviews

BMDrummer
September 7th 2017


14582 Comments


haven't heard this in forever wow

fun band

SandwichBubble
September 7th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

band's one of my old favorites. Never put too much time between you and a Crass record, it's unhealthy

SandwichBubble
September 8th 2017


9713 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

One last bump for prosperity.

butcherboy
September 8th 2017


9464 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

BUMPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP



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