Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A//Political: The Greatest Working Crass Rip-Off

Revew # 14
Artist: A//Political
Title: The Greatest Working Crass Rip-Off
Format: LP
Label: Threat to Existence
Year: 2010
Songs: 19

This LP features the entire discography of the mid to late 1990s peace punk band A//Political, as well as some previously unreleased material, and a hefty booklet (60 pages!) featuring the band's lyrics, photos, an interview, short essays on pacifism and anarcho-syndicalism, and a complete history of the band and the anarchist collective they were part of, the Crasshole Collective. Lots of reading material! I'm not actually a big enough fan of this band to need to read all of this stuff in a single sitting.  I like them well enough, but I didn't find them at the right time in my life to feel really passionate about their music I think. Still, I've picked through bits of the booklet and some of it is pretty interesting.  Really though, it's the kind of thing I wish would have fallen into my hands when I was still trying to figure out my own politics and what punk is actually about. It would have been informative and inspiring.

Musically, this record really hearkens back to the likes of Crass, Conflict, and the previously reviewed Anthrax.  It's not crust, it's anarcho-punk in the early 80s British tradition that largely faded away with the birth of the crust sound. The drumming has a lot of roll in it, ala Crass, the guitars are a little on the trebley side, vocals alternate between semi-melodic, shouty, and ranty, but never enter the Cookie Monster territory favored by so many crusty bands. As a big fan of the early British anarcho stuff, it's cool to hear a slightly more contemporary band playing in this style.  "Stop Thinking and Pogo" and other songs like it show a clear influence from Crass's Stations of the Crass and Conflict's It's Time to See Who's Who, yet the band still manages to have it's own voice. They seem to use Crass and Conflict as starting points, but also incorporate some street punk sounds in some songs, some American hardcore, and a hint of crust as well.

Lyrically, these songs are political and scene-critical, encouraging punks to step outside their limited scene ("Punk is a Ghetto") to try to affect larger change in the world. It's smart and political, and I find many of the critiques I've made of the punk scene represented in the lyrics of this band.

One thing that's a little odd about this record is that it seems to play a little fast. I've played it on two different record players now and it just seems like the songs are just a tiny bit sped up.  Maybe they had to do this to make all the songs fit on the record, or maybe I'm just not familiar enough with the band's catalogue and this is just what it sounds like. Maybe it's just in my head. It's not severe that it detracts from my enjoyment of the record, but the vocals just seem a little higher and more rapid than would be natural. I'd welcome the input of anyone who's more familiar with the original releases than I am, because while I've heard this band in passing many times over the years, this record is the first release I've ever owned by them other than one song on a compilation, so I don't have much basis for comparison.

A//Political was a band that was passionate about their politics and did real work to try to advance them, in the tradition of the groups their music emulates. If every punk band were as thoughtful and hardworking as they were, the scene would be much better place.  Musically, I'd recommend this to fans of nearly any kind of punk, but not necessarily anyone who wasn't already a punk fan of some kind.
Total songs listened: 183

Listen to "It's Not About Politics, It's About Life."

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