Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. Continuing on from yesterday’s article on early ’80s anarcho-punk classic ‘Penis Envy’, we take a look at an altogether stranger entry in the Crass catalogue.
Crass are one of precious few bands from their generation who’ve resisted the temptation of hollow nostalgia driven reformation tours and ceaseless, increasingly expensive deluxe editions. Their original seven year tenure saw them release their fair share of vital work but where many of their peers carried on well into irrelevancy, they disbanded before they had a chance to fall from grace. Released in 1985, a year after their split, ’10 Notes On A Summer’s Day’ gives some indication as to why they threw in the towel. A twenty minute EP rather than a full-sized album, ’10 Notes…’ is a lengthy and highly experimental piece over which fragmentary poetry is recited. The flip-side is an instrumental mix of the same which, by jettisoning the lyricism, loses much of what makes the track worthwhile. In some regards, ’10 Notes…’ is a logical continuation of the Crass aesthetic. Experimentation defined the band and, seeing as they drifted away from straight punk towards something altogether stranger, it makes an odd sort of sense that their swansong should be something so bizarre. On the other hand, this is far from the band’s best work; the musicality lacks the focus and urgency that made their best work so vital. Lyrically, this is more abstract than earlier material – suggesting where the band may have gone had they remained active. ’10 Notes On A Summer’s Day’ is a curious addendum to the Crass discography and, while it’s certainly inessential, to dismiss it outright would be a mistake.
As with previous releases in this 2019 One Little Indian reissue series, ’10 Notes On A Summer’s Day’ has been pressed with a strong sense of quality control. Where some 12″ singles are even now pressed on lightweight vinyl, this is a hefty slab of wax with excellent sound quality over both sides. Due to the 10 minute sides, vinyl is cut at 45rpm which naturally results in excellent sound quality. Despite the avant-gardisms, this is one of the more cleanly recorded Crass releases and the new remastering has only served to bring this clarity to the fore. From a visual perspective, surfaces are clean here with a bright sheen and no marks or signs of handling from the factory. Playback is no less pleasing, with tidy sound entirely free of issues such as crackle, surface noise or popping. Where it’s all too commonplace for modern reissues to suffer from lax quality control in terms of surface noise, the uniformly high quality of these Crass reissues allows them to stand tall in the uncertain waters of modern vinyl reissues.
It isn’t uncommon for 12″ singles to be presented in either lightweight picture sleeves or generic die-cut sleeves. Of course, Crass have always had a keen eye for stylish presentation so, despite its EP status, ’10 Notes On A Summer’s Day’ actually comes in an LP-style cover with a printed lyric inner sleeve. Where most of Crass’ full LPs are presented in poster-sleeve, this edition replicates the original release’s more traditional presentation. The art direction is also distinctly unlike the stark imagery and monochrome colour-scheme of most of their artwork, although it is still designed by the band’s longtime visual artist, Gee Vaucher. As with other instalments in this 2019 Crass reissue series, the labels replicate those of the original release – as does the high quality cardboard printed inner sleeve.
’10 Notes On A Summer’s Day’ is far from Crass’ greatest achievement, but it does represent an interesting experiment from a group that refused to grow stagnant. As we’ve come to expect from these 2019 Crass Records / One Little Indian reissues, sound quality and playback is excellent.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at email@example.com – it would be great to hear from you!