11 new songs for a summer’s day. If you don’t know who this particular Steve is you are certainly ignorant. Vocalist and Anarcho Punk godfather with Crass, his was the voice of rebellion in the mid 70’s and early 80’s and a thorn in the side of Thatcher’s government. Whereas the populist punks like The Pistols and The Clash got all the attention it was bands like Crass who were actively kicking against the pricks with more than mere music. If anyone was close to bringing about a revolution it was this group of malcontents living in Dial House Essex. Active action was forged against all the ills of the world and the music although unlistenable to many was a rebel rousing call to revolt. ‘From The Feeding Of The Five Thousand’ to ‘Christ The Album’ and the near chaos of ‘Yes Sir I Will’ Crass were a blot on the pastoral landscape of Epping and their call stretched far beyond. Ignorant was their main male voice and the serenades with Eve Libertine and Joy De Vivre among others crafted songs that are just as relevant and revered today as they were 4 decades ago. Anyone wanting to delve into this further and see what exactly occurred and why Ignorant left Crass leading to eventual disbandment should read George Berger’s The Story Of Crass, it’s all there, warts and all.
From youthful beginnings, growing up was just around the corner and that is something Ignorant eventually had to contend with. Never quite turning his back on music though other acts followed such as Schwartzeneggar, The Stratford Mercenaries and more recently Slice Of Life. The vocalist and now volunteer lifeboatman has plenty of stories to tell us and delves into the contemporary world here with this incarnation’s second album. The call to protest may well be a lot more subtle, life however is just as hard in this grown up world and the struggle to survive is never tougher.
Musically though the band itself is a much calmer and placid affair. I guess it’s the perfect match to allow you to really concentrate on what is being said. The word ‘punk’ won’t really be used in context to what we have here mainly augmented by Carol Hodge’s soft and delicate piano runs and acoustic guitar and bass. Tuneful and melodic is the name of the game here, guitars are no jagged scything attacks and the likes of violin and viola are likely to crop up and accompany the gentler breeze rather than the storm of the musicianship. This results in some excellent songcraft for those of us who have also grown up through the years and followed its instigator and lyricist.
There’s something very timeless about these songs, the simplicity of the harmonies no doubt helps and numbers like opener ‘Don’t Turn Away,’ with its near gospel backing choral really stick in your head after just the 1st listen. I particularly like Don’t Turn Away’ with its Doors like early melodicism and it’s one of many songs with a message; anti-bullying in this case. It’s quickly evident that vocally Ignorant still has that easily identifiable tone, whether singing or doing more spoken word parts. I don’t want to be disrespectful or anything but the yobbish gobby vitriol is still very much evident. I guess you can take the boy outta Essex but….
Of course, listening to wise words is part of what this is all about and this is very much an album to be heard on different levels. ‘The Right Way’ has a near nursery rhyme motif from the piano, you’ll be humming along with the music and “the ultimate spiteful bloke” reminiscing and rhyming behind it in no time at all. One thing that strikes is the fact that songs can be really quite pleasant, opposing the subject matter. Not always of course ‘S.A.D. is suitably morose and seasonally disordered although not without a ray of light possibly beaming through. However how can a song called ‘Slaughterhouse’ sound so damn cheerful? A near perfect pop song in essence with a chorus that’s absolutely compulsive; if the masses would listen, we could have a vegetarian / vegan anthem going on here. Ultimately though there is an underlying depressive feel on ‘Song For Myself’ and one gets a tale that is sagely and one from someone who has certainly lived a life and has the maturity to look back, perhaps not in anger but still with wounds to be licked. The tracks are well organised and for every down there is an up such as embracing individuality with ‘Diffrability,’a jaunty number along with a sassy new version of Stretford Blue.
Serving as both an enjoyable album and one that is likely to make you think, there’s no turning away from the legacy of its innovator as far as I am concerned and Don’t Turn Away has hit a nerve and the spot with it. Sure it’s a fair step removed from 2011’s Last Supper at Shepherds Bush, shows that particularly stick in the memory and even if he doesn’t have the same clout, the fact that he’s still willing to stand up and shout (his words not mine) is the real message you need to heed.
(8/10 Pete Woods)