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‘Pussy grabs back’


cuwz7ckuaaapo2v‘Pussy grabs back’ becomes rallying cry for female rage against Trump

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 10 October, 2016

Filed under: Arts, Culture, history, Media, poetry, politics, songs, stories

“Sex, lies and videotape”


“Clinton: Sex, lies and video”

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 10 October, 2016

Filed under: Arts, Culture, Media, Memoir, poetry, politics, songs, stories

Crass, the Iconography


We will want to avoid being crass when taking about Crass.

I owned Stations of the Crass and Penis Envy some 15 years ago,
in vinyl and with its demise they drifted away in the netherlands
of discarded technology. Of the hundreds of albums I owned, about
a dozen survive. Why, who knows. And, while I was drawn to them,
even found them fascinating, I would them very hard to listen to.

There are at least three levels to Crass’s music. At the topmost is The Punk,
which serves as a framework with which to reach their audience. By their
own account they were inspired musically by the leading punk bands of the time,
London Calling is an example. I disliked that particular form of music at the time
and own no albums of Clash or any other.

The name Crass is an extension of Clash, the class of civilization, the disaffected young of the time. As opposed to the brashness of the one name, the other is a self imposed putdown of the band itself, a sort of trash. As if Picasso had called himself Junk.

Twenty four years earlier the Rolling Stones burst on the music scene and were a revelation to us at the time. They broke a mould. Everyone at the time liked the Beatles.
Our mothers found them curly.  Death to a group popular with the young. Fortunately,
they moved closer to the Rolling Stones musical ethos. One writer made the perspicacious
remark that in Sergeant Peppers Lovely Hearts Club Band we have an almost musically
perfect album.

Listening to these two albums now, they come across quite differently to these years. It not the passage of time that I am speaking of but there is a clarity of what these two sets of
musicians were try to say in a musico-socialogical sense.

There was a great deal of speculation about the fade off of the album. Was it recorded backwards? What I hear now and don’t remember noticing at the time is the classical orchestra at the beginning of  the album following by the title track abruptly climbing on top.

Those many punk bands, including Class, spoke to a disillusion generation. Disillusioned for any number of reasons which we won’t go into here. Let’s point to the hope and freshness that comes across from the Beatles album in contrast to the other.

The level below the punk overlay which is sounds at the beginning of the tracks is, as on the Beatles, rudely pushed aside as the band drives relentlessly as it does on every track of
every album. The lyrics are quite unlike any Punk band, for Crass are in a class all their own. If one strips out the profanities, as if the band wanted to outpunk punk, the is a depth and compelling quality to the lyrics which works on the listener almost subliminally. The intertwining of the lyrics, as with the band’s name, is a deliberate
attempt to masked from the listener, the target audience, that this is a highly intellingent
group of musicians, which is why the lyrics themselves are run as a link underneath each of the links to the albums.

But it is not the lyrics that I am concerned with here, it is the iconography that this band uses at the third level. This is, as are all the other elements, a deliberate, self-conscious choice on Crass’s part. On none of these posts of music have I ever previously put up the album cover. There is a continuity of theme across most of the album’s covers.

The move from the 12 inch covers of the vinyl to the much smaller CD was lost the size of the cover image. The Beatle album is a perfect example of what has been lost. The multitude of the figures, each chose for a particular cultural reference point, is quite lost on the smaller format.

For the most part the album titles is inseparable from the images chose to illustrate the covers. And the titles themselves have a implied or overt Christological meaning. Take the first album. Feeding the five thousand, the famous parable of Christ feeding the crowd with fishes, is a overt reference to the Bible and is the only one of Christ’s miracle to appear in all four Gospel books. There are no famous images depicting this scene as so many other Christian scenes  have throughout the Middle Ages up to the present time. Most surviving images place Christ in an elevated position, already santified by the halo, whereas the Books suggest a plain, almost working man taking pity upon a poor, starving mass of people. The image below seems to capture best poverty, destitution, desolation.

crassthefeedingofthe5000

A close study of the image on the cover of the Second Sitting, a composite with collage in black and white, will reveal a group of figures, all male in the bottom left of the picture with a dispersed set of figures to the right. A dilapidated set of buildings fill the centre rear of the image. A dark forboding sky compete the image set.

It is difficult to make a link, a connection, between the album cover image and the album title.  Perhaps none is intended.

There is no apparent religious content in this particular image. However, it is apocalyptic which is a religious term.

The next cover is that for Stations of the Crass.

crassstations

There, as with the previous image, appears to be little link between the image and the record title. The title, however, firmly links with that of the previous. Replacing cross with Crass firmly establishes the band with some religious statement. Whether Crass put themselves up on the Cross it is difficult to say with all the Biblical meaning that has.

Christ on the Cross is perhaps the most powerful image that Christianity has alongside that of The Virgin cradling the infant child. Many, many painters have depicted the cross image.  Perhaps the most well known in recent years is Dali’s.

christ_of_saint_john_of_the_cross

Salvador Dalí: Christ of Saint John of the Cross

The figure and painting is lustrous and complex in composition. The view of Christ is that of the vertical with him suspended above the earth and sky, perhaps already having risen to heaven. There seems to be no suggestion that Crass have themselves been crucified nor that they are in any way a saviour nor is suggested in any of the lyrics for the tracks on the album. One is left puzzled at what Crass are attempting to convey. Their stance though is not that of other contemporary Punk bands of the time in not being as they clearly were, taking a straightforwardly antiestablishment stance. Their is far more complex than that.

crasschristthealbum

Once again with  Crass – Christ we have no apparent connection with the title of the album,  yet the album is entitled Christ. The cover is a complex weaving of elements which somewhat resemble a Mobeius, an image which appears to have no start nor end point, but repeats as you work your eye round it. The cross behind the diagonal does not resemble the Christian cross.

Yet the album as the most overt christian link on any album so far, a link to the man himself. Are Crass saying they are Christ themselves?  I doubt it. Are they being messianic, apocalyptic? Undoubtedly. All of their lyrics speak to this.

The last suggestion, overt or otherwise, to religion is the album Crass – Yes Sir, I Will

This is the phrase one might come across in an English public school. One has no idea as to the question that elicited this response. But the answer suggests a willingness to obey authority which is not really what Crass are about in any respect. They are quite simply the most disrespectful band of authority of any that have inhabited the pop or punk scene, those of the early sixties West Coast not excluded.

Much of what Crass did and said has been described as ironic. This is not correct. They speak with sincerity as they lived. A better word which speaks to their stance is bathetic.
For all their sincerity ultimately nothing they said in all those fine lyrics would made a blind bit of difference nor has is it. Christ hasn’t managed this either. That Crass took a stance can be said of no other band in the history of Rock and Roll and that itself is an achievement.

Malcolm D B Munro
Thursday 13 October, 2016

 

 

Filed under: Arts, history, Media, Memoir, poetry, politics, songs, stories

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