Alternative What Revolution? EP
Apparently, in the ’80s ALTERNATIVE were often called “the Scottish CRASS,” which, depending on how much one liked CRASS, could have been either a massive compliment or an insult (the latter especially true if you were barmy and glue-prone). The comparison makes sense, and you can instantly tell ALTERNATIVE was heavily influenced by their commune-dwelling elders, even though the Scots’ music was much more accessible. I would argue that their oddly-named crowning glory, 1984’s If They Treat You Like Shit, Act Like Manure LP, can be basically seen as CRASS’s punk quintessence. The album contains all the punkier elements of CRASS (the upbeat numbers, the dual male/female vocals, the songwriting versatility, the visuals, the politics, the emphasis on the collective, and so on) without the layered dissonance and the (sometimes anguished) weirdness. ALTERNATIVE was the more tuneful and catchier Scottish cousin of CRASS. In fact, they were more tuneful and catchier than most of the bands gravitating around CRASS, like FLUX OF PINK INDIANS or DIRT. Yet they have always remained somewhat overshadowed, despite being potentially more appealing and easier to get into. Is it a London bias? Is it because they were unfairly deemed “CRASS clones”? Is it because they did not tour as much because they had troubles securing a stable lineup (I’m putting that euphemistically, only one member remained between 1982’s In Nomine Patri EP and the 1984 LP)? Is it because they have weird accents? The album, released on Corpus Christi, was always very hard to find and about as pricey as a kidney on the black market, so that clearly did not help, but music streaming did contribute to making the band accessible to new generations—I personally had to order a crap CD-R with the first two records burned on it. Finally, Sealed had the great idea to make the LP available again almost 40 years later, and here they go again with the What Revolution? EP. The statement that the album may be the ultimate ’80s anarcho-punk album is not irrelevant if you think in terms of a retroactively construed “anarcho checklist” that includes standards that we have come to associate with the “typical anarcho sound.” If so, yes, 1984’s ALTERNATIVE was the perfect anarcho-punk band. What Revolution? includes one song that was recorded during the LP session and should have appeared on it, but it was replaced with a live recording of “Where are Your Hiroshimas?,” a proclaimed fan favorite at the time (it is a simple anthemic song after all) that was still far inferior to the song “What Revolution?’” that has now finally found its way onto vinyl. This is a flawless number epitomizing and concentrating the sound of ’80s British anarcho-punk: energetic, tune-oriented, political with spoken parts, and just bloody catchy. CHUMBAWAMBA certainly looked up to and listened to this lot. The EP also includes two songs from the album with a different mix, a clearer guitar sound, and more of a stripped-down feel. Not essential and more “for the fans” (count me in). If you don’t know ALTERNATIVE, start with the album and then succumb to this one. And if you need a description, which you should not, put LOST CHERREES, the EPILEPTICS, and DIRT in a blender, and voilà. Another great initiative from Sealed Records.