ANTHRAX - CAPITALISM IS CANNIBALISM
Based in Gravesend, Kent, Anthrax had initially been featured on Bullshit Detector 2 and from there had gone on to have a record (entitled They've Got It All Wrong) released on the Small Wonder label, leading to airplay on the John Peel show. Pete Stennet, proprietor of Small Wonder Records always had a good ear for a good band, being responsible for the first independent label recordings of a plethora of classic acts including Cockney Rejects, Menace, The Wall, Cravats, Punishment Of Luxury, The Cure, and of course, Crass.
Among the large number of demo tapes sent to him, something obviously stood out about Anthrax to warrant doing a single with them as it did with John Peel to warrant giving them airplay. Could it have been perhaps the angry intelligence at work in their songs and the perfect jelling of sentiment to sound?
Crass too obviously picked up on it by the fact of awarding them the opportunity to put out a single on their label. In the process of doing so, however, something very unexpected occurred: In the studio with Penny Rimbaud on production, Anthrax were turned into an astonishing hybrid of Flux Of Pink Indians and a teenage Crass. With phlegmy, snarling vocals, pounding drums, rumbling bass and squealing, feedback-torn, fuzz-drenched guitar, Anthrax were imbuing the Crass formula with new life and vitality.
The title track of their EP, Capitalism Is Cannibalism, was a masterpiece of political Punk combining both anger and despair in equal measures: "What a fucking set up, what a real mess. I can't make sense of it, it doesn't make sense."
Casting a beady eye upon the world, vocalist Oskar was diving head-first into the maelstrom and letting rip with invective: "Raised from the cradle and teethed on possession, they reared you upon TV capitalism. They spewed you out of school, they gave you a nice job. You get turned on when you're on top."
To Oskar, society was a vicious circle in which positions of consuming and of being consumed become blurred, where roles are prescribed and what you get for what you give becomes ever more toxic: "You have to survive by producing crap. Can you call that life? With the very same crap you have to buy back displayed on the supermarket shelf, over a thousand varieties - to damage your health."
For all the sloganeering within Punk alongside the grappling with politics and the wrestling with economics, it was very rare that the term 'capitalism' was ever mentioned. Whilst 'communism' was a part and parcel of everyday language from Sex Pistols lyrics to mainstream news reports, 'capitalism' was deemed almost archaic as though it was a redundant word. When describing the nuclear stand-off between East and West, even, it was always 'communist' Russia against the 'democratic' West.
Professor of linguistics and intellectual political activist Noam Chomsky would argue that this was no accident and was all part of the manufacturing of consent. If this be so, then Anthrax were one of the very first bands to go against the grain by not only ripping the mask of democracy away and addressing the western world's political and economic system by its proper name but defining it truthfully also with one of the most precise Punk slogans ever: Capitalism is cannibalism.
Equally unequivocal was the track-cum-slogan Violence Is Violence, which found Oskar describing how the media condemns violence one minute then condones it the next according to whatever suits whatever agenda is being set at the time. Citing the way the tabloids glorified the Falklands war when only weeks earlier they had been deploring hooligan violence on Britain's streets, he makes a good argument: "The whole fucking affair seems the same to me, one minute they're deploring it the next minute adoring it. But violence is violence no matter who inflicts it, whether used in a street fight or a war caused by politics."
Probably without realising it themselves, Anthrax were actually years ahead of their time specifically in regard to the subject matter of their songs. As well as bare-naked capitalism, for example, they were even getting to grips in the track All Things Bright And Beautiful with environmental conservation. These being two themes that years later would become the focus of major protest movements.
Although the artwork on the sleeve of the EP was perhaps not up to the usual high standard of Crass Records covers, the bold statement on the main fold-out poster side offered final evidence if it be needed that their hearts were firmly in the right place: 'Capitalism gives opportunities in life - Anarchy gives life'.
The Capitalism Is Cannibalism EP along with their Small Wonder début would be the only records Anthrax would ever release in their own right during the Eighties (until reforming many years later and finally releasing two albums, the first a compilation of past glories and the second a collection of totally new material) which was a shame, for even though they were derided by some as being mere Crass copyists, Anthrax were in actual fact a very special band indeed.