Zounds Can’t Cheat Karma

Crass Records 421984/3

Released August 29th 1980 Zounds made their vinyl debut with a three song EP called Can’t Cheat Karma. Aside from the title track, the EP included “War” and “Subvert“. All three songs appeared on their first album, The Curse Of Zounds.      “Was there any pressure internally or externally to conform to a sound or style of Crass? They chose the songs from our repertoire. We played it and Penny and John did all the recorded and produced it. To some extent they directed the performances, particularly my vocals. Crass the band, and the Crass label were both Penny’s babies really. He was the man with the vision. They made us use a session drummer who played Joseph’s part. That was difficult to take as authenticity is quite important to me. After the recording they mixed it without us there and brought it to us for approval.”

The resulting record was “You Can’t Cheat Karma”. Released in early 1980, the three song EP starts with the mantra-like drone of “War”. It’s repetitious bass and guitar riff are more reminiscent of the first Modern Lovers record the UK punk. Like “Pablo Picasso”, the song becomes hypnotic and the list of war torn countries becomes a rhythm of it’s own.
This song leads directly into what could be the bands most known track, “Subvert”. Upbeat but with a very clever guitar part for a verse, the song is a cross between the Minutemen and “Jumping Someone Else’s Train” by the Cure. Lyrically, it’s a shopping list of small daily acts of subversion.

  • A1) War
  • A2) Subvert
  • B) Can’t Cheat Karma

“After undergoing several line-up changes Zounds shortly afterwards released their first EP, Can’t Cheat Karma, on the Crass Records label (although drummer Joseph was replaced for the recording by a session drummer) in 1981. The EP featured possibly their most well known track “Subvert”, a call to arms against the grind of daily life. The release of this EP and association with Crass led to an increase in the bands profile in the embryonic Anarcho Punk scene, touring with both Crass and the Poison Girls as well as performing several squat gigs in West Berlin”. The record was produced by Penny and recorded and mixed at Southern Studios July 5th and 6th 1980.

Inside sleeve

Poster designed by Dr Inadequate, the rest of the sleeve design was done by Zounds and Eve Libertine

NME review

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