Here’s my latent, superficially non-denominational holiday gift to all punks, skins, outsiders, and those who feel in general that humanity is driving itself into the abyss. The Mariah Carey staple, All I Want For Christmas Is You — a song so popular that 24 years after its release it just became the new single day streams record holder on Spotify — is a subversive message of anti-consumerism. “I don’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree,” playing in every retail shithole in the West and probably beyond. You are now allowed to admit that you like it without shame. You’re welcome.
If it’s good enough for Mariah, it’s good enough for the Leftöver Cracks of our world. It’s not necessarily the coolest thing to admit or a major indulgence, but I occasionally enjoy some Crack and company. With a planet so obviously being fucked from every direction, we need a vast variety of mental medicines. We need deep analysis, daring artistic vision, boring data-driven reporting. We also need simple messages that are easily understood, gut-based, emotional outbursts, the normal language of proper people. The Crackers fall somewhere along this spectrum, though it’s tough to say exactly where. Their subject matter and positions are often pretty far outside the mainstream, somewhat radical even for the punk sphere. It’s also quite easy to see a juvenile or shallow aesthetic going on, of the kind that causes critics (or those that see the TRUTH! – Tony) to refer to them as “music aimed at Garbage Pail Kids,” or “that awful fucking band . . . whose particular din is enjoyed by nobody with good taste in punk rock ever. EVER.”
Point is, it’s tempting to indulge in what might be considered basic skin deep revolt sometimes. Take for example the little number Baby-Punchers featured on this rarities collection that I am apparently reviewing. What could be more satisfying than the opening line “Fuck your flag and fuck your face” when you’ve just had a run in with your dumbass neighbours, complaining that foreigners don’t care about “old glory” in front of you, then trying to imply that you’re somehow less foreign than other immigrants, as happened to me yesterday? It’s almost as if growing up in England makes me more inclined to stick by my South Asian fellow complex dwellers. The track (originally released on a 2006 split with Citizen Fish) features Jello Biafra bringing another welcome element to the already varied mix in a shouted word rant, and when it yell-culminates in “QUIT YOUR JOBS! BURN DOWN THE MALLS!” you goddamn want to! I will indulge those impulses for these few minutes if only strategically or metaphorically in my wider life (considering that the other thing I intended to do today was apply for some sort of rent-paying toil… that didn’t happen). And as for the song Banned in P.C, I wish! They just asked me in for another one-off shift, the merciless bastards.
Leftöver Leftöver Crack has been carefully and meticulously curated with the goal of coming across like an unattractive document of scum living, burned inattentively to stolen CDs by an anonymous compiler in between smack injections and nutting coppers. You don’t believe it of course, but whatever. This appeal has always been in the actual music anyway, Stza’s vocals generally seeming to suffer from some combination of proudly rough recording equipment and gargling too much cider and lean. You could choose to interpret this all as “slum tourism” or “lifestyle anarchism” I suppose, or an attempt to artistically capture certain elements of life under this soul-sucking regimen; without intimate knowledge of the band members’ lives it’s mere guesswork.
Spanning their career as it does, E-Sides and F-Sides manages to round up a lot of the unusual stuff Leftöver Crack have often inserted into their works. The number of vocal samples and skits present from the Rock the 40oz EP indicate Stza and co’s respect for hip hop mixtape creativity; I thought E-side might mean East Side until I realised it’s just a reference to the fact that this is a double LP. (Interestingly, the long running website punknews.org did a similar mixtape idea last year called Banned From The P.C., that features a BBC live version of Gay Rude Boys Unite.) There’s the wild west criminality meets Bad Brains of The Good, The Bad and the LöC, while World War 4, originally from an old Fat Wreck Christmas album, has some unexpected pop punk melody and background vocals. There’s a really quite fun cover of Men At Work’s Land Down Under that I think even haters might enjoy, even if it is largely because it features somebody else’s lyrics.
If you’re a serious fan of leftovers, ready to lazily consume them when you get home from another day working for The Man, you’ll find this either a cool single package to have or pretty much a waste of time, since the majority of the material comes straight from the bands’ various splits and EPs. If you’re more a casual listener like me thirty tracks isn’t bad value for cuts that you may have overlooked. I would suggest checking the bandcamp tracklist to see where it puts you on this spectrum. Right, now that that’s sorted, what to do now? Back to Apple Pie and the Police State I guess.
Leftöver Leftöver Crack: The E-Sides and F-Sides can be heard via the bandcamp player above, and can be purchased (if you’re that unpunk) from Fat Wreck at this link. It’s available as a digital download, on CD or a double LP.