Jeffrey Lewis - 12 Crass Songs (Cover Artwork)

Jeffrey Lewis

Jeffrey Lewis: 12 Crass Songs12 Crass Songs (2008)
Rough Trade

Reviewer Rating: 3.5

Contributed by: JesseJesse
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Now if someone told you that an "anti-folk" recording artist was recording covers of 12 Crass songs for his latest project, I know what most of you would be saying: "Dude, I haven't listened to Crass since I was like twelve. Get with it." All right, okay -- that's fine. You can talk shit all you wan.
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Now if someone told you that an "anti-folk" recording artist was recording covers of 12 Crass songs for his latest project, I know what most of you would be saying: "Dude, I haven't listened to Crass since I was like twelve. Get with it." All right, okay -- that's fine. You can talk shit all you want. We all know you were exclusively listening to ska bands whose names had animals or condiments in them. It's okay to admit you've never heard Crass. It's also okay to say that you don't like Crass. Nobody's judging anybody.

Except Jeffrey Lewis, who has specifically stated in a comic book page that he absolutely thinks Crass is fan-fucking-tastic and has no other reason for wanting to record 12 Crass songs.

And that's the best part of the album. The passion for the original works is apparent in the time Mr. Lewis has devoted to these songs. And surprisingly? Crass lyrics work really well translated as a rambling folkster's rants...especially when the songs aren't rewritten, just re-arranged. "End Result" and "I Ain't Thick" are the best blueprint for the album's construction, featuring the same chord progressions as the originals picked out on an acoustic guitar. Filling out the sound are backing vocals, auxiliary percussion (like bells and shit), and plinking piano on top of metronome style backbeats.

"Systematic Death" features some twangy riffing and country-style bass rhythms while "The Gasman Cometh" is a quiet bluegrass pickin' shuffle with a frightening flute trilling out of key over it. But not all of the forays into rootsy arrangments work out the way intended. "Banned from the Roxy," "Do They Owe" and "Big A, Little A" feel flat. The subject matter overtakes the musical direction.

"Punk Is Dead" is extremely charming as a Dylan-style folk song picked out on acoustic guitar alone. A simple deliverance of the lyrics gives an interesting take on Crass' political analysis. "Securicor" is a jaunty acoustic romp. "Demoncrats" offers a slow take on the original featuring odd keyboards and triangles, sounding like a Belle and Sebastian filler song.

Perhaps the biggest travesty/triumph of the album is "Walls," which starts out with a low-key techno beat, funk bass, Indian drums, and dub-style melodica playing. It's the first time on the album that Jeffrey Lewis attempts some musical styling that pushes boundaries, but the delivery of the lyrics is sloppy and overtakes the party.

I don't think I'd be able to recommend this album to Crass fans OR Jeffrey Lewis fans. Or maybe I should recommend this album only to Crass and Jeffrey Lewis fans. It's hard to describe what to expect, and taking Crass out of the equation when calculating its worth makes for an interesting album. But in the post-Juno/Moldy Peaches resurgence haze, the last thing I want to hear are the words "anti-folk."


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
SouthernLovin (February 4, 2009)

Very fun album.

obiwanspicoli (February 13, 2008)

I'd give it a shot.

vitustinnitus (February 12, 2008)

man, i heard this guy LOVES acid.

Jesse (February 11, 2008)

Your humorous insights concerning similar last names caused a rupture in my bowels.

greg0rb (February 9, 2008)

Wouldn't it be better if it were JENNY Lewis doing 12 Crass songs?

punkgato (February 8, 2008)

This might just be worse than that shitty hipster band molesting Damaged!

feeeding5000 (February 8, 2008)

Listened to some of the songs, and I absolutely HATED them. If you didn't know, I am quite the Crasshole, but these versions remove anything that was powerful and ugly from the originals. It's just whiny, cutesy bullshit, with Lewis' god-awful small-child vocals. Also, Crass songs weren't meant to be played on acoustic instruments - they're too simple, and too discordant, for anything but feedback-laden electrics.

sugarfull (February 8, 2008)

CRASS aren't nearly as terrible as people make them out to be. Personally, while I don't get all into their politics, I find the music to be pretty revolutionary for its time.

Cos (February 8, 2008)

Sounds interesting. I've never been a fan of Crass (one of those things I've always meant to do but never have, like read "All Quiet on the Western Front"), but I AM a fan of ska. to my knowledge, I don't like any bands with names of animals or condiments in them, except for Animal Chin, who had some pretty awesome songs (The Stereo? Not so much).

PaC (February 8, 2008)

Sounds interesting. I'm a fan of crass, have never been a fan of ska though. However, the best Crass cover ever in my opinion is Beg the Question as performed by Ottawa's Furnaceface in a Hip Hop style. Both the Cheeze Wiz remix on the Nobody to vote for E.P. and the regular version (which came out later weirdly enough) on This Will Make You Happy are classics.

MattRamone (February 8, 2008)

"The subject matter overtakes the musical direction."

Um, doesn't that describe the entire Crass discography?

briennis (February 8, 2008)

saw this guy a few weeks back in New Haven, he was really good and i usually hate the genre. The Crass covers didnt hurt.

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