John Peel: "I hate Toyah records and they all go whizzing into the charts, and I love The Cravats and play all their records and nobody buys them. Whenever I start to feel important I think, 'Well, I never did much for The Cravats and I didn't stop Toyah'..." - Smash Hits, 1982


Originally founded in 1977 the Cravats were made up Robin Dallaway (vocals, guitar) and The Shend (bass, vocals). They later added further members in Svor Naan on saxophone and Dave Bennett (drums) before making a self-financed single "Gordon" released in 1978. By 1979 things had progressed to the point they recorded a session for the John Peel show on Radio 1. This led to a contract with Small Wonder Records, before three further Peel Sessions followed in 1980, 1981 and 1982. After that, pretty much nothing for 30 years until they played Rebellion in 2010.


The Cravats were a band whose name I had heard on many occasions in the dim distant past, but could not for the life of me remember either anything by them or what they sounded like. So when this double (45 track) CD arrived I was probably perfectly positioned to cast a retrospective ear over it.

So what did I hear? Well if Hugh Cornwell or Jello Biafra ever fronted The Fall, backed by X Ray Spex they might sound a little like this. Quirky, off beat, alien sounds and distortions abound. Its not difficult to see why the record buying public, who saw Toyah and Adam Ant as the acceptable face of New Wave, would have trouble in getting their heads round their records.

An acquired taste? Maybe. But from a band that started out very much DIY, by 1982 they had ingratiated themselves with the punk hardcore to the extent of releasing single "Rub Me Out" on renowned anarcho punk, Crass Records. Indeed when in 2011 Steve Ignorant decided to play Crass numbers for the last time he requested a reformed line up of the Cravats to be added to the bill. Similarly the second CD is a remix of their debut LP 'The Cravats in Toytown' by Crass founder Penny Rimbaud.


So here you have the total of their brief output for Small Wonder Records. The aforementioned long player in its original stripped down version and then the sound-bite enhanced, Crass friendly, remixes by Rimbaud, plus all the five singles they released - 'Gordon', 'Burning Bridges', 'Precinct', 'You're Driving Me' and 'Off the Beach'.


Certainly something different and veering manically from seemingly childish, almost amateurish, tracks to thought-provoking, dark, introspective numbers. Whilst not to everyone's liking, certainly worth checking out if only to discern why John Peel held in such high esteem.