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Jeffrey Lewis

12 Crass Songs (Rough Trade)

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The dozen tracks on N.Y.C. hipster Lewis' fourth album have nothing do with insensitive comments about your mom. Rather, Crass was a late-'70s punk group from England that was way more committed than any of its peers to bringing down Parliament and everything else the British political system had to offer. So 12 Crass Songs is exactly that: quarter-century-old punk tunes covered by Lewis. But the marble-mouthed singer doesn't merely plug in and recreate the songs note for note; he unplugs and offers wordy tracks like "End Result," "Systematic Death," and "Do They Owe Us a Living?" as folksy sing-alongs. If anything, the sociopolitical musings ring more clear on 12 Crass Songs than they ever did on Crass' own albums, where the blistering guitars and thickly accented vocals tended to obscure the messages. The disc drips with irritating boho cool — Lewis' deadpan delivery and Helen Schreiner's backing vocals occasionally recall the Moldy Peaches at their most annoying — but it rarely interferes with this earnest tribute.

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