As someone who missed Punk by being an unhip six year old when the Pistols released Anarchy In The Uk, Bloody Revolutions sounds like I imagined Punk sounded like, when I'd just heard the name and some of the artwork. It's four or five songs in one, leaping about all over the place, the threads sewn together by appropriations of 'iconic' Brit chestbeating music that should seem obvious (Crass weren't afraid of easy targets) but still manages to sound unhomely and anarchic.
Crass never seem to be given much credit for their actual music. Most writers seem to focus understandably on the polemic, some on the graphics with the music taking backstage, an irritating memory burn.
Thing is, Crass echo much of the musically revered industrial preoccupations: tape manipulations, found sound, cut-ups - - - ((Throbbing Gristle seem to be coming from distantly familiar angles and it's no surprise, for instance to see Steve Ignorant appearing with Current 93 a little while into the future)) - - - and weave some interesting sidelines into their music... one day I'm going to take the beautiful strings and static of the first 5 seconds of this track and I'm gonna make an immense Chaostrophy out of it...
Also not often mentioned is that Crass had some good tunes (in the same way that Big Black wrote good tunes) and this release is full of them, parts that sound almost kraut, as if Crass were one step away from locking into a groove-
Imagine if they'd managed to get Jaki Liebezeit on board; there's already something a little hippy about Crass, just around the edges, in amongst the radio static and the girly singing, just before Steve Ignorant starts charging... I'd love it if they re-formed and went all Amon Duul on us...though it's much more likely that they'd go...
Just replace those martial drums with breakbeats... add a little beatslurring... get that bassline to bounce just a little more (Crass basslines are always bouncy)...
Steve Ignorant is a proto-rapper, a ranter and raver, a ragga-mystic.
Someone's bound to have picked up on this before but if only Brit rappers had gone towards Steve Ignorant rather than LL Cool J we might have got to Grime a little earlier and not had to deal with the whole Derek B, Hijack, Demon Boyz axis that seemed a waste of everyone's time.
Towards the end of this single, the doubletracked vocals point the way towards a British Urban music that never was - and this from some nice punk folks who lived on a farm... I'm still utterly disappointed that hiphop in Britain never managed to attach itself to people who might actually have taken it in some interesting directions away from the USA model. Yeah, there's Timezone but where did it go from there? Didn't anyone knock on Mark E Smith's door? Or even Spizz Energi?
I guess we got MC Foetus but he was Australian.
And then... well, there's a section around 3 mins where they play out a kind of pots n pans freakfolk, not unlike the recent Vashti Bunyan/Animal Collective EP and this seems to knot together loose strands of musical rebellion from various eras - something Chumbawamba made a little more explicit in their English Rebel Songs 1381-1914.
The folk/ rebel songs link was important and attractive to my teenage self because I wanted Punk to seem like a thrilling resonance, an inevitable coming together of ideas rather than a hastily thought out McClaren media coup. I imagined Punk as sounding like the artwork, as if it'd be a fusing of trends, a radically mixed bag, a set of mutated artefacts. Before I heard a single Punk and Disorderly compilation I imagined Punk was unplaceable and alien not the nasty pub rock and sneer I kept getting... it seemed like a big bad mistake until I heard Crass and The Fall and Throbbing Gristle.
As for the polemic...
Crass might seem a little, er, utopian in hindsight (and why is that always used as a negative quality in thinking?) but it's still somehow soothing and rhapsodic to remember believing, just for a second, that this kind of mere music could actually change something...
Most things Crass released make me want to sing along like a burnt puppy. Some things make me shiver.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the best Punk single of all time: