I always dreaded the arrival of my mid-life crisis, but it seems to have worked out quite well, so well in fact that it's probably not so much a crisis as just me buying a load of records. I never learned to drive, so a bright red sports car would be useless; I always thought leather trousers looked fucking stupid; and I'm happily married with no interest in either conspicuously young women or showing them my Charlie Browns. My mid-life crisis has coincided with a period of unusual contentment on my part. I'm settled and comfortable, at long last, and so my attention has inevitably turned to getting hold of all those records I meant to buy at the time, but never did.
I taped I Hear You Laughing - the flip of their single on Crass Records - off John Peel all those years ago, decided they sounded worthy of investigation, and then never got around to it. At least a decade slipped by before I came across that live album with the Apostles on the other side in a junk shop in Lewisham, and a test pressing too - which always struck me as weird. Naturally I bought it, being something of an Apostles obsessive, but I have no memory of playing the thing beyond a vague impression of the Apostles set being a little ropy. Then last year I read some essay about the Mob in the excellent And All Around was Darkness and noticed that the band remained more or less a mystery to me. So I dug out the live thing, immediately saw the error of my ways, and tracked this down - a lovingly tooled and expanded vinyl reissue from Overground.
Anarchopunk bands associated, however loosely, with Crass have a certain reputation for black clothes and scowling, and apparently even Peel cracked some joke about the Mob's apparent lack of cheer after playing one of their records. Of course, the overtly political subject matter proposed by such bands was often that we're all being screwed and society is bloody awful, which seemingly left little scope for light-hearted chuckles. However, as with the received wisdom of how all those Crass bands sounded the same, it's not really true.
Possibly aside from the vaguely jazzy Roger, the Mob sound nothing like Crass. More than anything they remind me of New Model Army - a big heroic rock sound of a kind associated with young men whose generous locks doth flow photogenically in the north wind as they stand atop some rocky promontory gazing fearlessly into the future, but without the usual excess of production; and while the lyrics may indeed be relentlessly bleak tales of man, woman, and child crushed beneath the heel of an oppressive consumerist state, there's a real sense of joy to these songs, specifically the joy of the understanding that there will always be hope on some level, the adrenaline rush of resistance and engaging the enemy.
In fact, the more I listen to this record, the more it sounds like a celebration, a call to arms, something a long, long way from the promised threnody. I'd rhetorically ask where this album has been all my life but I already answered that one in the first paragraph. Let the Tribe Increase is magnificent, and definitely a better deal than fast cars and dolly birds.