mon 17/06/2024

Reissue CDs Weekly: Crass - The Crassical Collection | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Crass - The Crassical Collection

Reissue CDs Weekly: Crass - The Crassical Collection

The entire catalogue of the totemic anarcho-punk disruptors is revisited - again

Crass live, before their abundant afterlifeTony Mottram

The cultural imprint Crass were leaving was apparent while they were active. As well as their own music, their label Crass Records released records by Flux Of Pink Indians, the pre-Sugarcubes outfit Kukl and The Damned’s Captain Sensible – Crass were instrumental in him becoming a vegetarian.

Crass also had significant boundaries-testing brushes with the establishment: the Penis Envy album led to court cases; a montage tape of a supposed conversation between Reagan and Thatcher was linked to Crass. Further subversion came when the song "Our Wedding" was given away with the mainstream magazine Loving. As well as making people question, think and address their lifestyles, there were all the bands Crass inspired.

Crass The Crassical  Collection Best Before 1984But without the music as the entry point, Crass would never have become what they became. They first played live in summer 1977 and ceased doing so after a July 1984 show. The last release credited to Crass was 1986’s 10 Notes on a Summer's Day. Since then, there’s been an abundant afterlife. The latest manifestation of this steady trend – last year, this column looked at three vinyl album reissues – is the arrival of seven slipcased CD sets, each dedicated to one of their albums: Stations of the Crass (1979), The Feeding of the Five Thousand (The Second Sitting) (1981), Penis Envy (1981), Christ – The Album (1982), Yes Sir, I Will (1983), 10 Notes on a Summer's Day (1986) and the compilation Best Before 1984 (1986). They’re branded as The Crassical Collection.

However, over 2010 to 2012 there was already an almost-full-discography reissue CD series branded as The Crassical Collection (Best Before 1984 wasn’t physically reissued then). The new packages certainly look familiar. When all but Best Before 1984 are arranged in a portrait rectangle, they create an image of the Crass logo on a mottled background. Just like the 2010/2012 reissues. The backs of each package look similarly familiar.

Furthermore, the new versions of Stations of the Crass, Penis Envy, Christ – The Album and Yes Sir, I Will draw from the masters dating to 2008 and 2009 which were used for the earlier Crassical Collection series. The Feeding of the Five Thousand (The Second Sitting), 10 Notes on a Summer's Day and Best Before 1984 use masters from 2018 and 2019 which were created at Abbey Road for last year’s vinyl reissues. Oddly, last year’s Stations of the Crass master (i.e.: what was used for the vinyl reissue then) is not employed. The text in the booklets also uses what seen last-time around: Penny Rimbaud’s essay in the Yes Sir, I Will book is that from 2009.

Each of the new releases is a double CD though. Only Christ – The Album and Yes Sir, I Will were as such in 2010/2012. Unpicking what’s out now is laborious and, in essence, each new Crassical Collection package is an expanded reissue of the previous reissues.

Crass The Crassical  Collection 10 Notes On A Summer's DayWhile it’s a faff getting to grips with these seven releases, after having done so it becomes clear what’s on offer is the ultimate Crass legacy offering, especially as Yes Sir, I Will includes the 2002 jazz interpretation of the album by Ingrid Laubrock and Julian Siegel, and 10 Notes on a Summer's Day collects a raft of tracks by Eve Libertine. The operative words are “the Crass legacy”, as all seven are as much about Crass in the context of today as they are about when the material was originally issued or, even, when it was reissued a decade ago.

Emphasising the current milieu, a quote attributed to the current UK government advisor Dominic Cummings appears on the back of Best Before 1984: “…it’s a threat to democratic principles.” The repost from Penny Rimbaud appears below. “Whaddya mean you don’t like the improved guitar sound.”

Crass never made it easy and the new Crassical Collection is in keeping with that. Many people will already have the core material here – it should be stressed that the clarity and immediacy of everything on these releases is greater than on any of the original vinyl pressings – but for those who haven’t, start with Best Before 1984 and then go for 10 Notes on a Summer's Day, Yes Sir, I Will and Christ – The Album. After that, pot luck is the best option.

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