Crisis - Holocaust Hymns [reissue] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Holocaust Hymns [reissue] (2006)


Eton had never seen anything like it. Right to Work marchers met Rock Against Racism punks weaving through the streets of Eton behind Crisis, a band pounding out driving rock music from the back of a lorry. Two movements coming together outside Eton public school, heart of privilege and pomp. The chants, 'Annihilate the National Front', fake upper-class accents, 'What does one want - the Right to Work', 'Eton boys rather naughty, Liverpool boys rather good'. Pogoing in protest as a giant silver spoon is presented to the Eton Head Boy. 'I hope your jolly campaign gets you somewhere', he said.
-- Socialist Worker, 17 June 1978

Though it's hard to fault the lack of a comprehensive Annals of Punk Rock for letting a few bands slip through the cracks as we move farther and farther away from 1977, it is disheartening nonetheless that significant and active bands like the UK's Crisis remain shrouded in obscurity.

From about 1977 through 1984, Crisis released a handful of singles, mini-LPs and full-lengths, including a session recorded by renowned DJ John Peel at the BBC studios. Possibly due to some collective subconscious alphabetic association, Crisis often gets lumped somewhere between the Clash and Crass when they're mentioned at all. And that's not to say that such a placement isn't accurate, as Crisis is neither as abrasive as Crass, nor awash with the pop sensibilities of the Jones/Strummer combo. Instead, Crisis walks a line between early incarnations of post-punk, experimental art punk and edgy anarcho styles. Ever heard of the Ex? The styles and methods employed by Crisis don't deviate far from that Dutch band of anarchists, though Crisis incorporates a bit more of the early American rock and roll styles.

With harsh tongue-in-cheek song titles like "Holocaust" and the anti-fascist rallying cry "White Youth," it's not hard to see why the band could have been mistaken by outsiders as a something other than the leftist peace punks they were. Of course, even a brief look at any of the band's lyrics would reveal as much, as well as their activity in events like Rock Against Racism and organizations like the Anti-Nazi League. Though the band's intentionally colloquial diction provided pointed and still relevant one-liners like in "No Town Hall" ("Democracy don't pay me / A bullet for the state"), some have not fared quite so well over the last thirty years. The unity-driven "White Youth" with a message of "We are black, we are white / And together, we are dy-no-mite" would sound less dated if not for JJ Evans' exuberant expression and countless "Good Times" reruns on Nick at Nite. However, the message isn't lost with lyrics like "They're cultured mobsters of the bourgeoisie / The noose gets tighter slowly by degree." Revealing that substance and art were not mutually exclusive in the band's songwriting, "Frustration" plods by with a gradually building rhythm and plethora of guitar soloing and an utter lack of any overt messages.

Initially released as the double CD We Are All Germans and Jews, this collection was reissued by Apop Records as Holocaust Hymns, consolidated yet still including the spillover of bonus live and demo tracks. Don't let the relative obscurity of this band fool you, this is a collection no amateur punk historian should be without.