It’s been a good week for record label PR and a bad one for Chimp research, following from Muxloe’s Young Marble Giants admission, I had penned the following review based upon the first few listens of Jeffrey Lewis’ 12 Crass Songs:
Jeffrey Lewis began life as a beatnik, or at least his parents were, a lifestyle choice that deemed comic books and blues records more suitable entertainment than that old Hippy’s foe: Television. Lewis took that early absence in his life personally it seems, as TV is one of several targets in the sights of his nasally-voiced shotgun on new album 12 Crass Songs.
Before becoming a musician and a member of New York’s anti-folk movement (the power and anger of punk via acoustic guitar) Lewis drew (aha) on his upbringing to become an underground comic book artist. The sparse/direct style of comic books runs through 12 Crass Songs; it’s a wall-to-wall bunch of blunt, angry self-effacement - delivered like a crude black and white sketch through minimal music and Lewis’ talking/singing.
12 Crass Songs doesn’t let up. Nothing is spared as various tones of grey are added to the bleak portrait of the western world today. The human race is the first in the firing line on End Result “I’m part of the race that kills for possessions, part of the race that’s wiping itself out” On I Ain’t Thick, Lewis has his daggers drawn for that old villain 'The Man' who uses TV/Sarah Jessica Parker, consumerism and even history books, to keep the masses downtrodden, but Lewis ain’t having that y’all.
Systematic Death plays out like a comic book story, etching a sketch of Mr and Mrs Average America doomed to a life of misery, oppression and downright idiocy under the SYSTEM SYSTEM SYSTEM!
If he’s pissed at Sarah Jessica Parker, then imagine the ire Lewis reserves for Bush (I bet even Sarah Jessica Parker is pissed at him) and Mr. President’s policies, particularly his idea of defence, come under the penlike scalpel of Lewis. Even punk itself isn’t safe. Punk is Dead laments that the movement that once inspired Lewis and his contempories sold itself out “Punk is Dead. Punk is Dead. Just another cheap product for the consumer’s head”.
I would disagree however, what is punk other than getting a personal message out there by the most direct means possible (or is that DHL? (Corporate Fascists)). It’s easy to roll the eyes at another New York artist bitching about conspiracies and the like, but that’s exactly the fuel that feeds 12 Crass Songs. The world in 2007 is a mixed-up place of complacency and terror, artists that stick their head out, stare you in the eyes and point that out should be saluted. However, it surely wouldn’t detract from the message to add a splash of colour now and again, if only musically….
Then, like a tardy Colombo, I discovered that I had overlooked a vital piece of evidence; 12 Crass Songs is exactly that; 12 cover versions from late 70s/Early 80s English Anarchists Crass. It’s depressing to think that 30 year old messages of protest and opposition still ring true and clear today, and strangely all of my thoughts were still valid - even though I refuse to believe that Sarah Jessica Parker was a key instrument in Thatcher’s oppression of Britain’s working classes.