The first ‘album’ by CRASS remains one of the most startling records I have ever heard in my entire life. I first heard the album when a friend taped it for me in early 1985. Essentially it is a 12″ single that contains 19 songs (it plays at 45rpm).
When I state ‘startling’ I mean that shock that rare art can give you. My first exposure to CRASS, oddly was via Smash Hits which often featured the band logo on various patches and badges for sale, etc.
Although CRASS released their records before the ‘Parental Advisory Explicit Content’ sticker pushed by Tipper Gore (an ironic name if I’ve ever heard one – for someone determined to censor art). CRASS did not escape censorship – far from it.
The Feeding Of The 5000 was originally released by the Small Wonder record label in 1978. That label I will always associate with Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus for fairly obvious reasons. Staff printing the vinyl expressed concerns over the records content. This resulted in the first song being replaced with silence for 2 minutes and 6 seconds. I purchased the original Small Wonder release in late 1985 from Reddingtons Rare Records, in Birmingham. Maybe the staff were having an off day – it was in the £1 section.
CRASS took matters into their own hands. Forming their own label to avoid future problems. This did and didn’t work. The Feeding Of The 5000 The Second Sitting included Asylum (also released as a 45p seven-inch as Reality Asylum). That track is powerful, venomous art that does not hold back. Although CRASS are cited as a punk band the record is practically art house. It will shock. Only in 2005 did I hear an alternative version of the song with extended, melting wordplay and choral effects. It sends shivers to the spine. For me the shock factor had gone but few records will send cold shivers through the listener like Asylum does.
The first thing I noticed about Feeding Of The 5000 in 1985 (my first listen) was the production (after the electric shock factor the record gives out). The album is uniquely produced with sounds wavering between the speakers. The treble is very high. This ‘tinny’ sound works in ways that it really shouldn’t. If anything it racks up the venom in the record.
The record contains songs that are catchy. This is something CRASS would bury later, for example on the Yes Sir, I Will album which is essentially a wall of feedback and fury.
Feeding Of The 5000 retailed at £2:00. The band made a loss on its costs. It has recently gone Gold. There is little media coverage of this fact.
It is a record most people should hear at least once. Unlike, say, Eminem, etc, its shock factor continues. This is because it is a record of real anger, but above that it is art in aural form.
I would suggest only the Dead Kennedys parallel CRASS in the musical mind expansion stakes. Powerful anti-religion and war songs just do not sound this powerful by more mainstream artists.
19 songs of near equal quality. Many will not like the stance the band have but many people need to think a tad more – or at least try. It’s not even, in my opinion, their best record (checkout Stations Of The Crass). This, however, is a most unique debut record as you are likely to ever find…