Reviews

The Cravats The Colossal Tunes Out LP reissue

The CRAVATS have never sat easy in the history of the anarcho-punk genre they’ve often found themselves in. While affiliated with CRASS via their label and Penny Rimbaud producing the single they released, their anarchy (if any) was less political than artistic, closer to the absurdism of Dada. Their sense of humor was also more upfront, in a silly surrealist Monty Python way than the often dour anarcho bands’ chants against bombs and starving nations. Musically, they were far more imaginative and complicated in their arrangements—Rob Dalloway’s guitar sound is both dissonant and twangy, featuring odd chords and the occasional rockabilly flourish, the Shend’s bass and Dave Bennett’s drums savored upfront, stomping and shifty in tempo. Svoor Naan’s saxophone has always been the band’s red herring, often lending them the ill fitting description of “jazz-punk,” with my argument against that being: would anyone call X-RAY SPEX “jazz” just because of Lora Logic’s horn lines? Due partly to this, the CRAVATS haven’t had the eternal back-patch legacy of their labelmates, or been able to stay in print perpetuity. The Colossal Tunes Out LP never even made it to CD aside from tracks on The Land of the Giants compilation, so this reissue by Overground is momentous in that respect at the least. Truth be told, I’m a huge CRAVATS fan, and interviewed lead vocalist the Shend for my zine 1ten years ago. When I saw this had been reissued, I scooped it up immediately as it’s my favorite of their releases. Not a real album as much as a compilation of their singles, there’s still a cohesion between the songs, and it’s the finest example of the CRAVATS’ off-kilter and adventurous musical world. The first side starts with the maniacally dubbed-out vortex of “Off the Beach,” the reverby surf punk riffs on “Terminus,” and the woozy cut n’ paste musique concrete of “Firemen.” The classic Crass Records single “Rub Me Out” (maybe their most well-known moment) highlights the B-side, and the psycho swarming clarinet and bugged-out swing of “Daddy’s Shoes” is maybe the closest thing to a real jazz-punk moment the band has. Any fan of the artier strains of post-punk like the FALL, SWELL MAPS, or PERE UBU, or mutant new wave like DEVO or the SUBURBAN LAWNS (even modern practitioners of the style à la CONEHEADS or URANIUM CLUB) would be wont to give the CRAVATS a serious listen. They even do an uptight and twisted cover of “Working in a Coalmine” like the spud boys from Akron did. If reading this review turns at least one more person on to the band, then my writing this is a success. Hopefully enough attention will come from this reissue that maybe we’ll get a chance to see the band’s multiple Peel Sessions come to vinyl in the future.