20 June 2011

Politics and Music: CRASS

Have been listening to my Crass CDs again and at the same time just finished reading an excellent book on protest songs by Dorian Lynskey entitled 33 Revolutions Per Minutes: A History of Protest Songs. The recent re-issues of the classic CRASS albums allow me to pick up 2 of the 5 band albums which this great but controversial anarcho-punk band released from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. Often dissonant and sprawlingly messy but definitely committed and ferocious as hell, CRASS had been and still are a whirlwind of musical phenomenon to behold. Their biting lyrics, vitriolic and at times didactic, pointed many then to the unjust politics of the United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher (who was partially responsible for sweeping aside much of the humane side of the post World War II social and political institutions, now never to return). Their songs, album covers and band polemics are, to me, still relevant, despite the fact that, many are today disillusioned with any talk of political and ideological hook-on with the popular culture and the arts (understandably due to the current insidious and not-so-covet methodological assimilation of anything and everything under the sun to the simple neo-capitalist mills of packaging, branding and selling to the post-post everything generation of the 21st century. A timely reminder.

The book by Lynskey thus fits aptly with CRASS; the author attempts an ambitious tome of 33 representative tracks for the past 100 years and traces, links and demonstrates to us his personal take and hopes (and perhaps pessimism towards the end of the book, not totally though) of songs as vehicles of protest and politics. (CRASS has 1 song included in his book but though I would prefer the other more straight forward but general CRASS classics, "Do They Owe Us A Living") Of course some of the these singers/bands/song-writers are usually not full-fledged flag wavers of certain causes they commented and wrote about and many became entrapped in the ugly and sinister political undertow of their artistic choices and ventures as a result. A good book nonetheless, perhaps on a more individual note, protest songs might be less effectual but they are still needed today.

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