CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (24)
August 24, 2020
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite punk songs, c. 1974–1983.
“SMOTHER LOVE” | CRASS | 1981
The song is all insistent rhythm and scrunchy guitar, the melody carried by a sweet-voiced woman whose passionate vocal burns through the next minute and fifty seconds: “Do you love me? Do you? Do you?”
But rather than a silly love song, Crass’s “Smother Love” is a scathing indictment of (hetero) sexual politics and monogamy. “The true romance is the ideal repression,” sings Eve Libertine. “Woman is a holy myth, a gift of man’s expression / She’s a sweet, defenseless, golden-eyed, a gift of god’s repression.” If Joan of Arc fronted an anarcho-punk rock band, she’d sound like this.
I’d missed the song entirely when it came out on the band’s third album in the summer of 1981, a little over a month before Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s ill-fated fairytale wedding. Wrapped in a poster bearing images of a open-mouthed teenage sex doll on one side and scenes from an abattoir on the other, Penis Envy had all the subtlety of a flying brick. With their trademark stencils and fierce politics, I’d lumped Crass in with all the other testosterone-fueled hardcore bands that had recently taken over the scene.
Plucked on a whim from the sale bins at Streetlight Records in San Francisco half a decade or so later, I was surprised by what I actually heard on Penis Envy: catchy songs, women’s voices, and feminist lyrics. And then there was “Our Wedding,” a hidden track at the end of side two, whose shimmery sacred keyboards and syrupy lyrics (“Just we two, one flesh, one blood / In the eyes of god”) seemed to rebut the rest of the album. “Our Wedding” was actually a hoax, previously available only as a flexi-disc to readers of a teen-romance magazine called Loving. Advertised as “a must for all true romantics” capturing “all the happiness and romance of that all-important big day — your wedding,” the song was available for a coupon and a stamp, mailed to Creative Recording And Sound Services (think about its acronym).
“Our Wedding” was a parody that hewed so closely to its source material as to be almost indistinguishable. I thought the band should have gone with something a little more aggressive, something a bit more like “Smother Love.” “Love’s another sterile gift, another shit condition.” Stuck as I was in the dregs of a long-term relationship, too insecure to leave just yet but desperately unhappy, I related only too well to the song’s keening rage.
CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): Series introduction by Josh Glenn | Mimi Lipson on Flipper’s “Sex Bomb” | James Parker on The Jam’s “Going Underground” | Dan Fox on The Cramps’ “Human Fly” | Adrienne Crew on Bad Brains’ “I and I Survive” | Devin McKinney on Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never” | Deb Chachra on The Buzzcocks’ “Ever Fallen in Love” | Mark Kingwell on The Demics’ “New York City” | Jessamyn West on Dead Kennedys’ “Kill the Poor” | Douglas Wolk on The Homosexuals’ “Soft South Africans” | Josh Glenn on The Freeze’s “This is Boston, Not L.A.” | Stephanie Burt on Sorry’s “Imaginary Friend” | Luc Sante on Public Image Ltd.’s “Public Image” | Miranda Mellis on X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” | Adam McGovern on The Clash’s “Washington Bullets” | Mandy Keifetz on Germs’ “Forming” | Gordon Dahlquist on The Sex Pistols’ “Problems” | Anthony Miller on The Soft Boys’ “I Wanna Destroy You” | Deborah Wassertzug on The Mekons’ “Where Were You?” | Tor Aarestad on Gang of Four’s “Return the Gift” | Marc Weidenbaum on The Pop Rivets’ “Dream of ’63” | David Smay on The Rezillos’ “(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures” | Vanessa Berry on The Cure’s “So What” | Chelsey Johnson on The Slits’ “Typical Girls” | Lynn Peril on Crass’s “Smother Love” | Mike Watt on The Dils’ “You’re Not Blank”.
CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.