Penis Envy is Crass’ third album, released in 1981.
The albums name is a nod to some of Freud’s ideas concerning sexuality. This album marked a departure from the “macho, hardcore” sounds heard on previous Crass albums, featuring more complex musical arrangements, and exclusively female vocals (those of Joy De Vivre and Eve Libertine).
The album addressed issues of feminism and attacked institutions of “the system” such as marriage and sexual oppression.
The album was banned by the retailer HMV, and The Greater Manchester Police seized copies of it, along with other Crass albums and Dead Kennedys material, from Eastern Bloc record shop. Its owner, Frank Schofield, was charged with “Displaying obscene articles for publication for gain”. As well as this, the band Flux Of Pink Indians, Crass’ labels, and their publishing company were all charged on the grounds of the Obscene Publications Act.
The heavy costs incurred by this would eventually contribute to the band’s demise.
The album has been remastered by Alex Gordon at Abbey Road Studios, as close as possible to the sound of the original release. Penis Envy, released in 1981, was the third LP by Crass. Eve Libertine takes the lead vocals throughout the album (the one exception being de Vivre’s turn on the unnerving portrayal of hospitals and waiting for death, Health Surface). A powerful and challenging record, Penis Envy uses the brutal, cruel description of sexism and rape on the opening track, Bata Motel, as a launching point for a comprehensive rip through societal control and repression throughout. Smart enough to target everything from the mechanics and business of selling romance (Smother Love) to gender stereotyping (Systematic Death) and back again, lyrically the sharpest cut is toward those who choose to accept such a system rather than reacting back against it. Both the vinyl and CD feature fold-out poster sleeves and are exact replicas of the original pressing.