Two Sevens Doin' Their Thing
The Lineup Card (1976-1985)
Joe Strummer (guitar, vocals) also of the Mescaleros and others
Mick Jones (guitar, vocals) until 1984 also of Big Audio Dynamite
Paul Simonon (bass, vocals) also of Havana 3AM
Terry Chimes aka Tory Crimes (drums)1976-7, 1982-3
Topper Headon (drums) 1977-1982
Vince White (guitar) 1985
Nick Sheppard (guitar) 1985
Pete Howard (drums) 1983-1985 also of Cold Fish
Rock 'n' rolls guerilla army. Definitely one of the most important bands of the last 30 years, the Clash represented the mobilized, activized, and politicized section of the punk rock movement much more explicitly than any other band, gaining a profile nearly as high as the more sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll-oriented Sex Pistols and the party-all-the-time dunderhead brilliance of the early Ramones, until in 1982 they reached unprecedented success (in the US, anyway) for an unapologetic punk band with two Top 40 singles and a stint opening for the Who. They then just as quickly began to fight like schoolkids over who gets to ride in the swing next and broke up in very clumsy, drawn-out, and embarrassing fashion in the mid-80's. At their peak, though, the Clash were everything. This band comprised some of the hardest of hardcore original punk rockers, and remained that way until just before the very end. Importantly, and unlike many bands, they never let their enthusiasm and didacticism paint them into a corner music-wise. In the beginning, this band was just as influenced by mid-70's dub and reggae outfits like Prince Far I and Culture and Two Sevens Clash as they were by the New York Dolls or Ramones, and as such were always a bit more willing to try new styles outside the mini-Thunders chainsaw-guitar box their peers were happy bumping around inside. While other bands liked to talk about breaking down barriers and 'destroying' the old system, the Clash took an active part in trying to advance rock music a few steps by incorporating black subculture into their sound. They were always willing to toss a reggae tune or two on their albums, and by 1980-1, became obsessed with dub and embryonic rap music. They also weren't particularly shy - between 1979 and 1982 they released an LP, a double album, a multi-EP rarities set, a triple album, and another LP just for good measure, all studio recordings, and for the most part, good-to-classic in quality.
They also rocked like gods. The Clash have one of the most kinetic, heaving, forceful stage presences in all of rock history, running around the stage like three-year olds (to dodge all the loogies gobbed at them, so they say) getting right in the faces of the audience, jumping and splitting and dancing and bashing Fenders to bits, but never missing a single beat or cue (well, except maybe the bass player). Unlike many groups under the 'punk' umbrella, the Clash could actually play, but play in that tight mid-60's Invasion ensemble sort of way, not in the ego-handjob Jimmy Howe Fripperton Clap crap showoff manner that had taken over music in the early 70's. Lead singer Joe Strummer had been in bar bands since the early 70's, and though he sang in a forced howl, sounding like a drunken football hooligan with a neckwound (not to mention the near incomprehensibility of his thick London accent) , he also exuded sheer intelligence and, to steal from the Clash themselves, 'complete control'. He split lead vocal and songwriting duties with Mick Jones (not the guy from Foreigner with the afro, and pound each of your fingertips with a hammer for thinking so), the band's own half-Keith Richards/half-spooky accountant, a guy who idolized his favorite rock stars and sang with a sweet, high-school croon, adding just a touch of flash to outweigh Strummer's martial heaviness. Lyrically, Strummer wrote very witty and lyrically skilled anthems of disgust at the establishment, going beyond mere childish squawks of 'anarchy!' to a very well-considered definition of right and wrong in the world. Jones was more of a romantic. Bassist Paul Simonon was probably the 'yob' of the band, was a bit of a scrapper and looked more stereotypically 'punk' than any of the other members. He'd also never played an instrument before picking up the bass for the Clash, and was never more than barely competent at it, but was also oddly intellectual in his love and knowledge of graphics and other visual art, and became a sort of secret weapon for the group as he designed logos and t-shirts to promote his band. Original drummer Tory Crimes had a cool nickname but not much else, a complete dorkwad who speaks like a kindergarten teacher and wanted nothing more than to own a Lamborghini to try to combat his chronic uncoolness. He also wasn't much of a drummer, and the band got fed up with him by 1977, replacing him with the much more powerful Topper Headon, a man who seemed to live and breathe drumming as long as he wasn't living and breathing heroin. None of the Clash ever were what you'd call virtuosos (though I'd bet a lot of bands would've given their right nut for Topper Headon), but they functioned extremely well as a group, putting forth a unified front when so many bands were flaming out faster than Farrah Fawcett's mattress.
The Clash had been somewhat of Johnny-come-latelies to the original London punk scene, as Strummer had opened for the Sex Pistols in his old band, the 101ers, and had his mind changed about playing Dr. Feelgood covers or whatever that group did. He formed the Clash after being approached by Mick and Paul and they began what they describe as a 'Stalinist' existence, sort of a burn-all-bridges, the-band-first-and-foremost philosophy that instilled a rare discipline in comparison with most of their competition, who, taking Sid Vicious as the obvious example, was too busy stumbling around with bloody noses and needles in their arms to advance themselves beyond nursery school musically. The Clash took their music to heart, and quickly gained an audience but, for some time, were considered too abrasive and subversive for record companies to handle. They weren't easily dismissed cartoons like the Pistols, or a pop band with a fast guitarist, like the Damned...they were deadly serious about what they were doing and were smart, melodic, and funny enough to become more than just a passing fad. They finally signed with Epic and recorded their raw, brilliant debut in late 1977, which was rejected by the US division of the company as too uncommercial (as if a band called the Clash was suddenly going to morph into the Osmonds overnight). Epic likened the Clash to a misguided hard rock band in need of polish ala Kiss or Alice Cooper, and so talked the band into bringing in Blue Oyster Cult producer and songwriter Sandy Perlman to work on their followup record, Give 'em Enough Rope. Rope was finally released in the us in 1978, followed by a reconfigured version of the debut replacing several album tracks with excellent singles recorded after the original album had already been released in the UK. The Clash were already well-known in the UK, gathering a following from the original punk fanbase, but in the US the audience didn't quite know what to make of them. US punk fans thought Rope was an overproduced mediocrity (which was about right) with some decent tracks but a horrible, mushy hard rock feel, and, of course, radio completely ignored it. To break in the US and defined themselves at home as somebody larger than just another cog in the passing punk fad, the band released the classic double LP London Calling in 1979. This wasn't merely raw, ripsaw punk rock - it was modern rock, some of it punk, some not (there's jazz, reggae, doo-wop, anthemic classic rock, cock rock, crack rock, chicken pox, cuckoo clocks, and dirty socks, all on one record). From here out the band was on top of the planet - adored by critics and punk fans alike, but accessible to a wider audience who would never have bought an album by, say, someone called the Vibrators. (Of course, some hardcore punkers continued to cry 'shenanigans' at what they saw was the dilution of the punk spirit, and each of them went to LA in the early 80's and slam-danced with each other until their brains dripped from their earholes). They even had a US small chart hit in 'Train In Vain'. Their crossover appeal was sealed, but they decided to take a few blind left turns before cashing in a few more of their chips. .
The Clash took the success of London Calling as a free pass to do whatever they felt like doing, and what they felt like doing was infinite amounts of bizarre electronic dub-reggae that laid clear the fact that they were smoking more weed than a brushfire. Sandinista! was a three record set of new material, some of it good and some not, that bewildered many fans. Things for the most part didn't get much clearer with the drug-firing of Headon and the release of Combat Rock. Other than two still-unavoidable classic rock singles, 'Rock the Casbah' and 'Should I Stay or Should I Go', the album was still a huge question mark for fans. That didn't stop the singles from hitting Top Ten levels in the states, however. Thoughout 1982 and 1983, the Clash had never been bigger - they toured with the Who, hit MTV and the singles charts, and had a best-selling album. But they were also breaking up, and Mick Jones was finally fired (technically) in 1984. Jones formed the marginally successful Big Audio Dynamite. The Clash, who had always been such a unified band, had lost half its members in two years and had found its place on its death slab. Not to be outdone by Jones, Strummer bullheadedly continued on, hiring some nobody guitarists to replace Mick and recording a hideous atrocity of an album called Cut the Crap in 1985. The Clash, however, had already died some time before, and Strummer quickly placed it to bed in early 1986.
This is a band for which the word intangibles was created, a band which was both exceptional in the rock world (intelligent, political, stylistically varied) and somehow still part of it all at the same time (rocking live energy, great look, cliched career arc). As the reviews will tell you, they were far from flawless, but they did so many things right over their career that their influence hangs extremely heavy even today. It's difficult for me to imagine artists as varied as U2, Rage Against the Machine, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or even Pearl Jam existing without the Clash having provided a roadmap. Yeah, they only had one real punk rock album, by the limited definition of history, but if the Ramones had set the sound and entertainment and the Sex Pistols the image and attitude of punk rock, the Clash were its conscience, and the continued impact of their music attests to it.
- Epic 1977
The true British punk album of 1977. Beats the ever-loving Danny Bonnduce out of Never Mind the Ridiculous Number of Overdubs, not to mention poseur albums like the Damned Damned Damned or In the City. In fact, depending on which side your buttocks are buttered on, it may appeal to you more than the slightly more polished re-recorded, remixed, and resequenced American version of the same album. Of the originals, the Clash has the grungiest and most stereotypically 'punky' sounding debut, just fourteen blasts of Brixton Chainsaw Massacre with the only respite from the din being the two bright reggae tunes (Jones' 'Hate and War' and Bob Marley's 'Police and Thieves'). To the uninitiated, the relentless aggression of this version is surprising - I'm used to hearing the facelifted US version, which manages to portray the band more as tuneful eclectics and less like rioting thugs drinking Molotov cocktails and kicking old ladies broadside across the kneecaps. The Clash simply had a way of being very specific and evocative with their attacks that the Sex Pistols simply couldn't touch - the Pistols liked to talk about being 'pretty vacant' and wanting anarchy and whatnot, but the Clash wrote about specific incidents that pop you out of your comatose middle-American existence and toss you into a paranoid, drug-fueled aimless stroll through the London night ('London's Burning') or the bleak office block ('Career Opportunities'). The mix here is also more ragged than the US version, with Strummer's voice more prominent in the mix on several tracks, less compressed guitars, and fewer background vocals.
I'll leave most of the song analysis to the next review, but the songs not available on the US version are worth mentioning. 'Cheat' is oddly complicated for '77-era punk rock, sounding quite Who-ish and featuring a few prominently out of character phaser-pedal guitar breaks. 'Deny' is a lame ripoff of the Pistols antisocialism (not to mention their song 'Liar'), and 'Protex Blue' (about jimmy jackets) is nothing more than a Clashified Ramones song - 'all I wanna do...is Protex Blue' and all that usual too-dumb-to-be-angsty, go-nowhere stuff. '48 Hours' is more in the style of 'London's Burning' or 'Career Opportunities', but its hookline ('48 hours and 48 thrills') doesn't pack the same punch. I have to say that if Epic America had to kill off some of the tracks, I'd have chosen these same four as they really are the only lame spots on an otherwise watertight record, especially if I knew the Clash had 'White Man in Hammersmith Palais' and 'Clash City Rockers' waiting in the wings. Yeah, fuck the filler, bring on the great singles no one in America could buy anyway...
There is something vital and sharp about this version that is somewhat lacking from the later US release, but if I had to choose, I just couldn't give up the great tunes that are available on the second release. As someone who committed the US version to memory decades ago, it's a revelation to hear which of Joe Strummer's lines got axed from it ('suck of Kojak!' he says in 'I'm so Bored') , and also to hear that at one time the Clash were ripping off the Ramones just like everybody else. It's just that the US version makes them sound like professional killers, and here they're still just hired muscle.
Capn's Final Word: The unpolished gem. Maybe the only 1977 UK punk album you need to own today, but the US version really is preferable.
Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Great album. Couple of facts are wrong. Bob Marley didn't perform "Police And Theives," that was Junior Murvin, Marley's guitarist in the Wailers, who was an esteemed solo artist in his own right. Also, "Damned Damned Damned" was released before the Sex Pistols and the Clash, so how can you call it a poseur album when they did it first? I don't like it as much as the Pistols album or the Clash album, but they were first...But yeah, relentless and amazing, with striking vocal contrast between Strummer and Jones (Joe has a voice for an abrasive bar band; Mick has a voice for an early '60's cover band), giving it even more character than it already has.
(Capn's Response: I call it a poseur album because the Damned look like dropouts from the Iggy Stooge school, not the Sex Pistols one.)
Give 'em Enough Rope
- Epic 1978
Time was I'd have given this album a C and called it terrible, sludgy, tuneless attempted sellout that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the classics that surround it, but I've softened somewhat in my advancing age and receding hairline. I still feel like all of those criticisms have some basis, and I'm still boggled this album was recorded in the dull, claustrophobic way that it was, but there's also some decent music here regardless of how ugly the reverb and overdubbing sounds. See, back in the Seventies (and even so today), an English band really wasn't anything until they'd broken in America, which was seen as this vast, half-repulsive, half-fascinating John Wayne movie of a place from whence all coolness and most idiocy gets spawned. Many of the Clash's idols, including all their R&B heroes, had come from here, and there was something about America that made England seem like some inbred backwater. The USA was big time. Also, for record companies the US was the great score, 30 million mobile kids with plenty of liquid capital and a desire to be cool. The time had come for the Clash, now a whole year later than the Sex Pistols and almost three years since the Ramones, to present themselves to the States, and Give 'em Enough Rope was to have been the means to do it.
The problem was that the record company, the band, and the band's management got skittish at the idea of hitting the States on their own terms, with a ragged buzzsaw blast like The Clash. In 1978, most American kids still hadn't heard of punk rock besides possibly seeing a black and white picture of Sid Vicious sneering idiotically back from their Rolling Stone magazine, and most had for sure never heard a real punk rock record. Record companies gave lip service to the 'New Wave' when promoting newish hit bands like the Cars or Cheap Trick, but these were slick power-pop bands, not the real deal. Hell, in those days, some idiots even lumped in artists as retrograde as Tom Petty or as unabashedly corporate as Foreigner as part of some new wave revolution simply because they didn't sound quite as bombastic as Boston did. Anyway, what I mean to say is that the perception of what the American audience was wanting was somewhat skewed by what they'd been fed for the preceding six years or so - everyone bought shitloads of copies of Frampton Comes Alive! and Boston, so, therefore, that's how American rock albums should sound. The Clash didn't fit inside such constraints comfortably, of course, but in an odd instance of self-compromise they signed on with Blue Oyster Cult producer Sandy Perlman to make their followup album.
Give 'em Enough Rope, despite what you might have heard, is still a pretty punky record - the guitars are still loud and jagged, Joe Strummer is still as garbled as a cockney bus driver, and they sure as hell haven't toned down much lyrically, but there's still some pretty major changes afoot. First off, the tempos are slowed down drastically from the debut, which wouldn't mean too much except the cruddy, muddy production by Perlman makes everything already sound as drag-ass as you wanna be. Dude! Why the fuck did they get this guy? Why not, say, Tom Werman, the guy who did Cheap Trick or, hell, even fucking Bob Ezrin with his marching bands and shit? I never thought Blue Oyster Cult records were produced well in the first place! The guitar tones are good, I guess (he uses the same ones here), but everything is clumped too closely together in the mix, there's not enough drum presence, and the bass and midrange is waaaaay too fucking loud all the time. I know what I'm talking about here: I've got this four-track cassette recorder, see, and I make my own songs on it from time to time, just me and my drum machine and a small battery of guitars and effects. I, too, have similar problems with sludgy, unclear mixes. It works like this: I try to record all the instruments nice and loud so I can crowd out at least a tiny amount of the goddamn noise I always have polluting everything (I record in my garage under a fluorescent bulb...is that dumb or what? If only I had an alternative...) If I record quieter, much of the quieter stuff like cymbals or whatever loses itself in this soup of tape hiss (yes, I use Dolby, but its still there) and hum from my pickups. So I record hotter than a whore in church, just under the saturation point, and end up with stuff that, wango tango! Sounds like Sandy Perlman! Except I'm an untalented, untrained hack twiddling away on a used $100 Yamaha 4-track in his garage while sitting next to a Weed Whacker and Perlman got paid a fortune to do what he does. And I'm making progress on figuring out how to fix this crappy sound. Perlman thinks this crap sounds good.
In other words, it takes quite a bit of concentration to pick out the hooks and lyrics from the production sludge on this album, and while sometimes its worthwhile ('Safe European Home', 'Tommy Gun', and 'Cheapskates', which sounds so much like BOC it may as well be on Secret Treaties, are all great songs), much of the time it's a waste. It seems that the Clash have decided to do some growing up on their own by stepping away from their grinding rock a bit, but since they're unwilling to go all out and pull a London Calling on us, they end up recording a bunch of overly-serious (they might say pretentious, but that's just 'they'. They do a lot of things. Like towing your car. Or telling you you can't take count the nest of ground squirrels under your deck as a tax deduction. But I'll tell you what...They Live! Just ask Rowdy Roddy Piper! And don't resist when he asks you to try on a goofy-looking pair of Blue Blocker sunglasses.) yet melodically under-written three-chord Monties that scream out to be held down and forcibly fed a middle-eight. When I can name three songs off The Clash that have more compositional worth than anything off this album ('Clash City Rockers', 'White Man', and 'Garageland'), there's a major problem with your inspiration generator. It's as if they're really itching to get all quirky and record more songs like the 50's-ish 'Julie's In the Drug Squad', but are too afraid to give up their ur-hard rock chord churning to do it more than once. London Calling would be brilliant because they did both the hard punky stuff and the stylistic excursions, , when and if they wanted to. Hell, I love 'Drug Squad' - love the barrelhouse piano and Strummer's near-Dylanesque delivery, because it's one of the only times they sound like they're having fun on Rope. Jones' 'Stay Free' is supposed to be nostalgic and bittersweet, but with its overloud guitar and repetitive distorted guitar jankling, it ends up sounding like a failed attempt at remaking 'This Ain't The Summer Of Love'. The other rockers here mostly just plod due to their languid tempos and less-than-grooving riffs, and that's got to be primarily the band's fault for not coming up with more juice than they did for this album - I mean, how much fun can you be having playing the 'I Can't Explain' riff for the second time in two albums ('Guns On The Roof')?
Capn's Final Word: Maybe I was right way back then about this album being sludgy and unlovable, and all I've learned in the meantime is not to be too cruel when meting out my punishments.
Showing the usual amount of record company sensitivity, the US version of the Clash's debut was released only after Give 'em Enough Rope had already convinced a lot of people the band was nothing more than the next Angel, and contains several changes to the original tracklisting as well as a new mix and several complete re-recordings. I bet coming to this version from the UK one is even more of . As a proud member of the Redneck, Whiteboy, True-blue chicken-fried nation, this of course was the version I've listened to from the beginning. Though it wasn't the first punk rock album I'd ever heard, it was definitely the first one that made be believe that this form of music was more than just a gimmicky joke, and the first one that really felt like it was part of the long line of rock classics. There, right there on the first song, 'Clash City Rockers', was the riff from the Who's 'I Can't Explain', but somehow I wasn't offended that they'd co-opted it for their self-congratulatory introduction and theme song, the best since the Monkees'. They also had the audacity to cover Bob Marley as a fist-coiled revolutionary instead of a laid-back goof (like Clapton) and cover the Bobby Fuller Four classic 'I Fought The Law' like it was an ode to the IRA rather than a 50's drive-in biker picture fantasy. The original tunes were just as striking - 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' manages to be both anthemic (the intro? the intro!) and provocative (its against the creeping apathy of his fellow punk bands) and reverent (its also about being the only white guy attending a reggae concert). There's plenty of the unabashed aggression retained from the UK debut, somewhat bravely keeping 'I'm So Bored With The USA' but losing some of the more derivatively weak tracks, but the mix is deeper, there's more 'musicality' (meaning, more interplay between the guitars, more fantastic background vocals by Jones), especially in the newest tracks. Instead of merely being a four-note Joe Strummer riff-mangler, 'Clash City Rockers' also manages to include a feedback-drenched near-psychedelic outro, a middle eight that brilliantly perverts a children's rhyme, again combining scalpel-sharp criticism of rock's old farts and noble praise of obscure heroes in the same rhyme ('Let's see you move, say the bells of St. Groove, come on and show me say the bells of Old Bowie, only when I'm fitter say the bells of Gary Glitter, no one but you and I, say the bells of Prince Far I').
Strummer has never been more biting and explicit with his lyrics than he was at this time, either - he rejects vacuous US passive-aggressive culture in 'I'm So Bored With the USA', slams white culture for lacking the balls to resort to violence for social change like the blacks in 'White Riot' (no, it's not a skinhead anthem, fuckhead. Strummer and Simonon got caught up in a Little Kingston riot and thought it was fantastic.), dead-end jobs in 'Career Opportunities' ('I won't open letter bombs for you!'), and the rapid dilution of the punk rock movement by corporate culture in 'Garageland' ('Back in the garage with my bullshit detector, carbon monoxide making sure its effective'). Long before hardcores decided the piety rules for punk bands, Joe Strummer was already taking swipes at his less stoic colleagues and the record companies that wanted to dictate what the band released. To illustrate yet another major difference between the Pistols and the Clash, take their two respective 'fuck the record companies' songs - the Pistols were pirates, bragging about how much money they bilked from 'EMI', but the Clash pull a lot more meaning from the chilling 'Complete Control', about the company's insistence on releasing 'Remote Control', which, oddly, is a song about repression as a result of the pursuit of profits. It's announced like an air raid siren near the end 'Complete Control' that 'This is Joe Public speaking!! I'm controlled in the body, controlled in the mind!'. It's just hard to the Pistols and their lame daytime TV curse session and toothless references to the IRA and UDA as being in the same league as a band warning you with a concrete example that profit-takers want nothing more than complete control over all of us.
Like the UK version, though, at first listen this album seems pretty one-noted and chainsaw-buzzy, but the changeup that occurs with, first, the fun big-guitar cover of 'I Fought the Law' (which is bright and tight and sounds as if it could have been released by, say, the late-60's Small Faces) and then the six-minute long mostly-faithful cover of Bob Marley's 'Police and Thieves'. This one shoves it in everyone's face that, yes, the Clash reject being restricted by anyone, either by their record company with 'Remote Control' or by their fans dictating that every song has to be two minutes long and blazing fast. The Clash rejected control by anyone but themselves, and while the impact of their debut has been watered down by nearly thirty years of every spiky-haired dweeb with a duct-tape encrusted knockoff Strat calling for riot and revolution, this is still a monster of a great rock 'n' roll album for many reasons. Not the least of which is that it rocks as well as any album of that decade. Can you say that about Siouxsie and the Banshees? Generation X? The Sex Pistols? Aww, man, no way.
Capn's Final Word: Some may thing its been profanated, I think it's been (damn near) perfected. The new tracks are (mostly) so great they equal the band's best work ever.
firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: One of my favorite first wave punk albums, but I can't give it a perfect grade. Like most punk albums, it suffers bigtime from frontloading. After "Career Opportunities" I get kinda bored, although I do like "Police and Thieves" a lot, it switches up the mood. My favorites are "Clash City Rockers" (who cares if it's a metal song and it rips off the Who? It rules! I'm tired of punk
purists bitching about it.), "Complete Control," and "Career Opportunities."
I'll hazard to say that no one was quite expecting an album like this from the Clash in 1979. After their rough-and-ready three-chords-and-a-helluva-lot-of-guts debut and the cruddy, muddy near-metal followup, to release a double album of stylistic excursions in crystalline clarity and with almost shocking lucidity of purpose was to move from being a great, possibly over-the-hill punk band to simply one of the best bands in the world, period. This is an album that combines emotion, storytelling, and great, catchy songwriting together like few others since the Beatles have been able to do - the Clash almost seem to be showing off their ability to do whatever they want to do as only they want to do it, To say that the Clash do it all on London Calling is an understatement, they don't just do it all, they do it all well and do it damn near better than anyone else would ever do. They have an ability to get to the very heart of a song in such a way that you feel like they could've made an entire album of just one of the styles they fall in love with here. Like punkabilly revivalism? Forget that something as feeble as the Stray Cats ever existed - 'Brand New Cadillac' is all you ever need to know. Hell, I don't even like 'punkabilly', but I think this song is fucking aces 'I said 'JAYSUS CHRIST! Where'd you get that Cadillac?' She said 'Bollocks to ya daddy, I ain't never coming back!' - this is more than the nth ripoff of a Gene Vincent classic, this is quite possibly the best rockabilly song I've ever heard. Like 'Jimmy Jazz' is quite possibly the best lounge rock song I've ever heard. It's legitimately jazzy, with enough saxophones to make the LA hardcore punks flip out in a spasm of bile and spittle, but its also about mob violence, with killer lines like 'they'll cut off his ears, then they'll chop off his head', and the (autobiographical?) 'look like a soldier, feel like a thief'. Man....and it just keeps going on down the line, from frantic, apocalyptic chargers ('Hateful', 'Clampdown', 'Death or Glory') to near Springsteen big-band throwback rock ('The Card Cheat'), to New Wave cleanness (the sleazy cocaine tune 'Koka Kola', Mick Jones' uncomfortably sensitive 'Lost In The Supermarket' - 'came here for the special offer...guaranteed personality, 'I'm not Down'') to R&B ('Lover's Rock', 'The Right Profile', a hilarious, drunken homage to the self-destructiveness of Montgomery Cliff - 'Everybody says 'Is he allright?' Everbody says 'he sure look funny!', it's Montgomery Cliff honey!') to reggae ('Revolution Rock'), to ska ('Rudy Can't Fail', the criminally upbeat 'Wrong 'Em Boyo') to psychedelic dub (Simonon's 'The Guns of Brixton', which sounds like it could mobilize a Third World guerrilla army singlehandedly), to simple amazing pop (the uncredited single 'Train In Vain'). Yup, they do just about everything they possibly can within some pretty general lines of what makes a good song - amazingly, none of the stylistic treatments sound like parodies, even 'Train', which is pretty much a disco song. Moreover, I get the feeling that most if not all of the tracks are well-written enough that it wouldn't matter what style you played them in, they'd still be classic songs. 'London Calling' as a dub song? Why the hell not? 'Guns of Brixton' as rootsy punk? I can see that. The Clash had too much integrity and genuine love for music, despite attempts to categorize it, to exclude anything from their arsenal just because they thought it wouldn't fit with their image.
Luckily, they remembered their image was actually not safety pins and buzzing power-chords, it was complete freedom and control over their art. If you can understand and respect that ideal, or just like great music no matter what label is placed upon it, then London Calling is your personal pot of Lucky Charms. Musically fascist punks who categorize anything slightly less extreme than the Ramones as 'weak' aren't really invited to this party - you'll probably like the opening title track and not much else. Those of you looking for a sort of well-defined political stance are gonna be left wanting as well - Tom Morello might like to pigeonhole this thing as a revolutionary's tome, but things aren't quite as simple as he'd like them to be. Sure, 'Spanish Bombs' is about the international arms trade, and some of the tracks, like 'Guns of Brixton', can be seen as calls-to-arms, but the protagonist of 'London Calling' knows that apocalypse is going to wipe out him as well as the Man ('London is drowning, and I live by the river!'). 'Koka Kola' stops well short of demonizing drug use, and it's hard not to see Strummer as having a great, drunken, debauched time encountering a fucked up idol in 'The Right Profile'. The Clash never were straight-edgers, and while they weren't Bentley-driving nobility either, the rock and roll lifestyle suited them fine. The Clash were, simply, a great rock 'n' roll band who did things on their own terms, and didn't belong to anybody. London Calling is the peak of that experience, an album that could possibly include or exclude anybody - safety-pin faces might hate parts of it and grandmas might love parts of it, for all I know.
I'd say the only tracks that don't quite work to perfection are 'Lover's Rock', which is a bit too slight and discoey, (and has the puzzling hookline 'Ohhh, to swallow!') 'Four Horsemen' is repetitive and oversimplistic, and 'Death Or Glory' is just a bit too stereotypical as a mid-tempo rocker. But those are all still listenable tunes, probably each of them better than most anything off Give 'em Enough Rope, its just that compared witht the Heidi Klums on the rest of this double record, a Mandy Moore can only be given so much credit on the International Standardized Scale of Hotness. The other tracks are generally close to complete perfection, recorded by smart, realistic young men at their performing peak. It would be hard for me to conceive of giving this album anything less than an A+, so I won't. So, Nyah!
Capn's Final Word: The Clash expand their horizons exponentially. Their ability to make any style theirs is absolutely freakish.
email@example.com Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I remember some girl played this in my chemistry class my freshman year of highschool, and I just dismissed it saying that all the songs sounded the same except the title track. Then I burned a copy from my friend a couple months later, and discovered just how far wrong I was. It took a couple listens to sink in, but I soon realized that this was one of the most amazing albums I would ever hear in my life. It's just shocking that a band could pull off this many consistently fantastic songs on a double album, and it's hard to imagine anyone topping it. Besides the first track there aren't really any big standouts either, every time I listen to the thing I have new favorites. It's much easier to point out the misfires; I agree with you mostly that "Four Horsemen" is boring and "Lover's Rock" is lame, but I'd much rather take the rocking "Death or Glory" over "Koka Kola." But seriously, that's three tracks. On a double album. A PUNK double album. That's like, what, six minutes of material? Yeah, it's really damn good.
Tom Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Perfect album...the worst song on here is better than the best songs on most albums AND ITS A DOUBLE ALBUM!
Neone else notice the similarities between this cover and Elvis' s/t debut?
Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Well, duh...it's bleedin' obvious that the cover is a takeoff on Elvis. It's also bleedin' obvious that this deserves an A+, no questions asked, signed sealed and delivered. It is easy to condemn it as overrated if you've heard a couple of minor tracks, but once you hear the big successes...it's history. this album's genius. Gotta love "The Right Profile." Montgomery Clift?!
firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: The musical equivalent to masturbation. And I mean that in the best way possible. This is probably the most fun, addictive album I've ever heard, and it's pretty much the perfect album to put on if you need ot be cheered up. I can't stop listening to it... Christ.
email@example.com Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: When I heard Guns Of Brixton,I was like 'This is a Punk Band or what?' but after the initial shock I didn't give a damn what it was.What I knew was that this album is an amazing experience.It is filled to the brim with great catchy poppy songs.They have tried to throw in as many genres as possible.Anybody who likes Rock'N'Roll should get this album.Seriously.
- Epic 1980
One big, ugly, messy motherfucker of a 3-LP album, packed full with every last note the Clash decided was worthy of spending tape on in 1980 (and priced the same as a single LP, proving you can't really ever nail down the Clash on ripoff charges). Despite being another multi-album package, Sandinista is pretty far from being the expansive, try-it-all masterpiece that London Calling was - this album (should I say 'boxed set'?) is steeped in endless quantities of a reckless fusion of disco, echo-laden dub reggae, weird Lee 'Scratch' Perry sound effects, and proto-hip hop. The problem is that instead of feeling like the Clash are pushing their mastery further outward into Marco Polo territory, like I should (listen, other than Blondie, what white people were even aware rap music even existed in 1980?), I get the idea they've gotten themselves marooned in a place they can't escape from, choking on the sheer quantity of this video game weed music they've spewed up. Most people who aren't ready for what this stuff really sounds like (the shock of hearing this after London Calling is as strong, if not more so, than the jarring effect of hearing London Calling after Give 'em Enough Rope) will probably balk at even the 'hit' from here, the disco/hip hop 'Magnificent Seven' (later copied pretty much beat-for-beat on 'Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice);, which sounds like Tom Waits imitating a catatonic Grandmaster Flash over an extended dance version of a Chic outtake. In retrospect I understand the move may have been brave at the time, but the Clash still sound mighty clunky trying to surround themselves with all this funky music when they have, like, maybe a quarter ounce of funkiness available between the four of them. In my mind, they've never sounded more white and uptight than on this record. They may have gotten all manner of Trenchtown shamen to come in and play reverse-echo vibraslap on here, but as 'ethnic' music this is still as authentic as a $19.99 Rolex.
Considering 'Magnificent Seven' is by far one of the more normal songs on Sandinista!, I'd like to suggest that you better really approach this album with an open mind or you'll be sunk before the first song's even over, and it's not a whole lotta fun realizing you've dropped nearly $30 on a 2-cd set and can't even make it past the first few songs on the 'better' sides. If you come at it like 'hey, I'd like to hear some weird-ass ganja-choked third-world dance music made by white guys so stoned they barely know when to start and stop the songs, so square and bizarre no self-respecting black person would ever dance to it in a million years', there's only one album for the job. And that's Public Image Limited's Metal Box.
Heh heh. I'm not kidding. Man, luckily my reggae tolerance is pretty high or I suppose I'd outright hate this album. I can sit and listen to something like 'If Music Could Talk' or the gospel tune 'Sound of Sinners' and wonder if it's really all just a sick joke, but I find 'The Equalizer' and 'One More Time/One More Dub' listenable and somewhat evocative in a psychedelic, ultra-stoned sort of way. To be honest, I don't much like what are usually called the good songs here, the one's I'm supposed to think are 'among the best stuff the Clash ever recorded'. Fuck that. There's nothing here that even comes close to this band's best (unless you nominate something for 'Best Dub Song', and even then I'd say it would have a hard time beating out 'Straight to Hell' off Combat Rock), and even if there were I'd never be able to find it buried underneath thirty five other tunes, lost somewheres on Side 4 or imprinted into the inside of the album sleeve or whatever. The 'rockers' (like 'Up In Heaven') are weaker than anything off the first three albums, so don't come looking to bang heads. The lyrics...the lyrics....well, there are some, but they're never as clear and hard-hitting as they were even on Rope, and after reading the song titles, I can tell they're just as political as ever, but when I hear a song like 'When Ivan Meets GI Joe', I don't much think of world politics. With all the saxophones and leisure-suit beats covered over with all manner of bleeps and blorps, I think of the old video game Gorf crossed with a bunch of hairy used furniture salesmen shaking it in an Iranian disco. In another example, you might think a song called 'Charlie Don't Surf' would kick ass in an Apocalypse Now, 'Guns of Brixton' kind of way but nope. It sounds just as non-committal as most of the other ones here - and oddball, muted, corny, and very easily forgettable light soul 'loverboy' Mick Jones tune is all it is. And so on and so on and so on. There's simply too much to handle on this record, and the thing is about as user-friendly as a Do-It Yourself Home Supercollider kit. Is it fair to include not one but two versions of oldy moldy Clash classics with lyrics rerecorded by kids? And how many fucking remixes are there on the third disc, and what mindless mannequin-head would need all of them to feel like this album is 'complete'? Needless to say, there's also about ten million other childish/downright dim-witted novelty 'songs' spread throughout the record to kill whatever vibe you may have started to pull down, and even the normal songs are light and silly, gakked all up with vibraphones and whatnot. I swear, this behemoth track listing is the Raid of the music world - it kills grooves dead. At least two thirds of this album should be cut, and even then I'd probably be hard pressed to believe it beats Combat Rock.
I find this album monolithic, unrewarding, and mostly just silly as fuck. There are some moments (how could there not be on an album this long? Twisted Sister could bang out a decent original tune if given 36 tries to do so.), and much of the reggae/dub background-y material is mostly acceptable, but the end sum is still mighty close to two wasted hours. With a name like Sandinista! and that cool cover and all that, you might mistake this for something heavy or provocative, but the only real provocative thing about it is how goddamn self-indulgent they are all the time. Never on this album are statements made clearly or with purpose - this is about as indistinct an album as I've come across, and the moments when it's listenable for three or four minutes at a time seem almost to be arrived at by pure chance. I never thought I'd say it, but the main thing I want to have happen when I listen to this album for any length of time is just for the Clash to shut the fuck up. And, goddamn it all to Hedley Lamar, they never fucking do.
Capn's Final Word: Three records to say so little? Don't they know using all that vinyl just supports those evil oil companies?
firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Actually, THIS was my first introduction to the Clash. I was a ZepHead middle schooler just starting to get into punk, so I did some research and downloaded some Ramones, some Buzzcocks and some of these guys. And guess what two Clash songs I happened to download? "Rebel Waltz" and "Charlie Don't Surf," of course! Naturally, it scared me shitless, so I deleted both songs and vowed never to listen to the Clash again.
But now I don't think it's so bad. Hell, I even honestly LIKE "Charlie Don't Surf." And I think people are right---Sandinista! really does have some good stuff on it, it's just not as immediately appealing as London Calling was. I hate "The
Magnificent Seven" though, it's just stupid. "Something About England" is one of my favorite Clash songs (reminds me of "The Card Cheat"), and there are plenty of other winners like "Washington Bullets," "Hitsville UK," and "The Call Up." Ok, it is hard to deny that this thing is one big sloppy mess, but I still get a lot more enjoyment than a C+ out of it, and I'm willing to give the thing a B, or maybe even a B+ just for sheer ambition. Nah, screw that. Just a B. It's still better than Combat Rock though.
Mike Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Wretched self-indulgence, which is a shame, cause there's a marvelous single album lurking in there somewhere. Did we have to have the extra version of "Career Opportunities"? That was an assyank of an idea.
You make so many comments about PiL's "Metal Box" on the site that I'm surprised you haven't reviewed it yet. It's one of my favorite albums, but you don't seem to like it at all - more like respect and fear it intensely. It's not that intimidating of a record, I think (but, then, I also think James Chance has a good singing voice, so what do I know...). I think that Jah Wobble's bass tone on that album just kills.
Chris Loades LoadesC@aol.com Your Rating: A+ Any Short Comments?: Sandinista absolutely pisses all over London Calling.Stick to your boring prog-rock if you don't know much about revolutionary music.On London Calling there is loads of filler Lost in Supermarket, Lovers Rock,
Koka Kola, I'm not Down, etc. Sandinista has about 30 of 36 good tracks and many classics ie. Street Parade, Somebody got Murdered, Something about England, The Call Up, Washington Bullets, If Music could talk, The Equalizer,
Lose this Skin, etc. London Calling deserves no more than A+I always judge music guides om whether or not they overrate London Calling-the mugs always do. (Capn's Response: Since when has smoking a shitload of ganja and ripping off black styles been 'revolutionary', anyway? This album is lazy.)
Combat Rock - Epic 1982
What I wanna know is, who's cell phone teleported back to 1981 and decided to ring four times during the middle of 'Rock the Casbah'? And what gay-wad chose that ring-tone anyway? And is the person that called the same person that called Led Zeppelin's studio on a ringer phone during the recording of 'The Ocean' in 1973?
Heh. 'Rock the Cash-bah' is more like it, since this was by far the Clash's biggest selling record in the US, spawning two inescapably hooky hits ('Red Angel Dragnet' and 'Who Let that Blabbermouth Gay Hippie In the Studio, Anyway? Can We Fire That Fucking Guy Already?') and forever killing whatever residual punk street cred was still hanging around the band after they recorded four straight albums with ZERO stereotypical punk rock on them. I mean, goddamn! What were the punks thinking anyway? 'Why golly, that kiddie version of fucking 'Career Opportunities' was a punk rock landmark, but what the fuck are they doing on MTV playing a three-chord rocker? FUCKING SELLOUTS!!" I trust people talking about 'cred' about as much as I trust an Energy Department director who used to be a lobbyist for the oil industry, i.e., less than zero. Which was also the name of a crappy 80's book about rich assholes battling drug abuse, which brings us to...
Heh. 'Rock the Cash Bar' is more like it, since the Clash was so fucking fucked up at this point they could barely stand the sight of each other, what with their drummer needlejabbing, their guitar player snuffaluffagussing, their singer bong-a-longing, and their bass player, umm...making dioramas and collages and shit. They kicked out Topper Headon right after finishing this bitch, which just about nailed the coffin shut for good on this James Coburn.
Heh. 'Rock'? There's, like, two rock songs on this hoobie-koobie! It opens with 'Know Your Rights', which is all 'JANK! JANK! JANK! JANK!', and I guess qualifies as a punk song because the chowderheads in Rancid like to play crap like this all the time, and since I see a lot of stickers with their names on it next to Black Flag and Exploited stickers on shitty little rusty 80's econoboxes, so therefore it must be punk. However,
since I give little to no stock to what I read on the back of shitty cars, I mostly think it sucks the big percussive one, like some retarded younger sister of 'London Calling' or something. Then there's 'Should I Stay or Should I Go', which used to rank as the one and only song they'd ever play at school dances that I'd actually acknowledge and force my Riot Grrl girlfriend to go dance to. What, am I supposed to deny one of the hookiest songs of the last 25 years just because it sounds like the Romantics? They sing in, what, Spanish during the verse? Is that a big joke, and if so, why does U2 insist on doing everything the Clash did twenty years earlier and completely miss that it isn't serious? And why do I consistently mix up Bono and Robin Williams in this musty, dusty brain of mine?
That's it for the rock songs, but if you're still going to the Clash for straight-ahead rock music after hearing Sandinista!, you're either dumber than a bag of Ashlees or have the optimism of an Enron accountant. Nah, the best I could hope for is some good dance stuff (the post-disco hit 'Rock the Casbah', which has some of the best boogie woogie piano work on any song ever and some of the most dated political lyrics ever) and maybe some inspired weirdness, and hope to God and George Burns that it doesn't last another three goddamn albums. Surprise! Twelve songs, forty-five minutes, and though there are some unconscionably shitty moments ('Red Angel Dragnet', 'Sean Flynn') I barely get bored during Combat Rock. It's all bite-size pieces, and if you hate something, it'll be gone never to return in just a few minutes. There's little of the not-as-black-as-we-should-be dub idiocy as on Sandinista, the closest to which being 'Ghetto Defendant', 'starring' beat poet Allen Ginsberg as the guy who used to be good forty years ago, and 'Straight to Hell', a world beat tune about Vietnamese immigrants which I would say qualifies as haunting and evil and beats the BVD's off Peter Gabriel. 'Car Jamming' crosses the same thumpy afrobeat with some guitars with goofy, upbeat results.
The album proceeds to go on a vacation on Suck Ass Airlines down to the Asslick Coast of Upper Cockgargle as of the vomitessent Prince rip-off 'Overpowered By Funk', continuing on through the completely unfinished Mick Jones wank-trip 'Atom Tan', another worldbeat excursion called 'Sean Flynn' (which I suppose you'd call 'ambient' because NOTHING MOTHERFUCKING HAPPENS ON IT) and finishing up with the kind of track that British people like to put on albums when their talent fails them ('Death Is a Star'). Yup, there's three, count 'em (...or not, considering I didn't and I'm just going on memory) three songs featuring spoken-word poetry, and none of 'em show a damn bit of decency. It seems to me that sometime in 1980, The Clash became absinthe-sipping bohos more concerned with style than substance, and Combat Rock (probably the least accurate album title since the Dayglo Abortions' Seventy Minute Tone Poem About Tropical Birds and Buddhism), despite having a few catchy songs', is just a continuation of their obsession with being hip with the arty-farty New Yorkers they idolize. For a band that liked to think they were 'of the people', the Clash sure sound elitist and art-snobby on their fractured fifth record. No wonder they evaporated like a puddle of nail polish remover within a year of its release.
Capn's Final Word: It's still much better than their fourth album, though without the two hits it would just have been shorter. I guarantee that you've probably not heard an album like this one before.
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Nathan Harper Your Rating: C+
Any Short Comments?: This album friggin sucks. And it's not because they sold out. I really couldn't care less if "Should I Stay" was on a jeans commercial or if "Rock the Casbah" was plastered all over MTV, they're both really fun songs even if they're not really on the same level as the stuff from London Calling. What does bother me here is, as you said, the hip snobbiness. Even when the music sucked on Sandinista! it still sounded sincere, on Combat Rock they're just showing off, rubbing it in everybody's face how eclectic and clever they are, and can still have a radio hit or two at the same time. As an added bonus, they even show you that they can still make a back to basics kick-ass punk song at whim,
like "Know Your Rights"!
THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT---WITH GUITAAAAAARS! JANK! JANK! THIS SONG HAS ONE FUCKING CHORD IN IT, HOW PUNK IS THAT?
Good lord, give me a break. That song is a pathetic piece of crap. It gets even worse though! What about that song where they quote Taxi Driver? What the hell is up with that? That song is awful. Almost as awful as the piece of shit at the end---I can't even take that one, I have to turn off my cd player halfway through before I vomit. There are some traces of the old Clash though. I actually really like "Straight to Hell," it's probably my favorite thing on here. "Car Jamming" is okay too. But most of it's crap, and side two is almost completely useless. In conclusion, Combat Rock is my least favorite Clash album (though I haven't heard Cut the Crap yet, and let's pray I never have to).
Cut the Crap - Epic 1985
SSSSPPPPURRRGGHHH!!! AFFLUGGGAAAAAAHHHHYHHUUUUUPPPP!!! BOink! SPlank! TWOUNKDSFRIIIIIIIGGGG! AGAGAGAGAGAGA!!! Icky Icky BAWANNNNNGGGG! GUHHHBABABABANAKANKANAAANNGGGHHHH!!! A! A-Oh! BUNFIKKGGGHJJ!! TWING FRIKKKITY UWQANNKLLLLLLICKKKK! JUH JUH JUH!!! Tick Twick TIWHCHHKKKK!!! uuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnwwwwwuuuuueeueeeejejejejejkkkkkkkkikiiiiiiiiISDIFIIIIDJDJDJJJJJKKLLLLOWE:DWEOEOEKO!!!!!
Capn's Final Word: There, I just saved you $14.99 plus tax for this get-back-at-Mick assyank.
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Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: This is England is stone cold beautiful. Dirty Punk is the last gasp of a once-world-beating-fucking-and-shitting-on-great band. The rest of this album is beyond crap. It makes me yearn for the raging mid-80s vitality of Johnny Hates Jazz.
Super Black Market Clash - Elektra 1996
Don't trust descriptions of this CD as being an expanded version of the 1980 EP Black Market Clash. Don't truss em. There ain't no 'Capitol Radio One' (you get 'Capitol Radio Two'), no 'Cheat', no 'Bankrobber', and no 'Armagideon Time' within the same ballyard of this album. Choke on that, you dishonest cover sticker manufacturers of Epic Records! What it is, though, is a rarities, outtakes, and b-sides collection of the Clash that's as good or better than all of their albums outside their debut and London Calling. No self-loathing punk should go through life without arming themselves with the apocalyptic '1977' ('No cash-grubbing, Number One platinum-selling Elvis, Beatles, or Rolling Stone hit collections in 1977!'), which is pretty cool in that it predicts the demise of the band itself as Strummer counts down the years until 'nine-een oighty FO!', which, as you should well know, was when Mick Jones was kicked out to start a career as the first British white rapper (no, really, have you heard Big Audio Dynamite? Lo, the terrible and disgraceful things cocaine makes you do.). From here we go from obvious outtakes ('Listen', an instrumental which gives me no good reason to do so, some second version of 'Jail Guitar Doors' that only trainspotters will be able to distinguish from the first), one particularly excellent cover (Toots and the Maytals' brilliant reggae classic 'Pressure Drop'), and some fairly decent not-available-elsewhere late-70's Cracker Jack rings like 'The Prisoner', '1-2 I Got a Crush On You', and 'Capitol Radio Two'. None of the full-fledged songs beat out anything off their concurrent albums (and it's easy to hear what comes from what era - 'Capitol Radio' is obviously Rope-era semi-metal, but it's got this hilarious 'this is how we get on the charts' jokey sellout section that, ironically, sounds just like fucking Sandinista!). As of 'Time Is Tight', we enter extendo-mix-dub-disco-reggae bizarro mode for the rest of the disc and I immediately feel my attention span dropping as fast as the energy level. This music strikes me more and more as an excuse for Joe Strummer to make stupid noises with a synthesizer, but I still think this album collects weirdness and dub with more pizzazz than Sandinista! or Combat Rock ever did ('Justice Tonight/Kick It Over' is about as good as they got in the style), but that doesn't stop me from rating the first half of this album a B+ and the second half a C+.
One good thing about Super Black Person's Clash is that it gives you the ability to taste test the last half of the Clash's career before shelling out the not insubstantial dough for Sandinista! If you can't stand 'Robber Dub', you should steer clear of anything this band made after 1979 like it was a bag filled with HIV needles, cobras with frigging lazers on their heads, and Kirstie Alley movies. Not a bad use for it, and you get about an EP's worth of great, punk-era Clash stuff as a bonus.
Capn's Final Word: I'm sure the original punk-era EP is harder hitting than this endless career-wide rarities retrospective.
Live - From Here to Eternity - Sony 1999
Jeez, after realizing that the whole second half of this band's career was about as good as a swift kick to the yaitso, I was beginning to forget that this band was once as great as any on the planet. Plus, they could play live like real tindersticks (though not like the Tindersticks, who I suspect suck like an industrial Hoover), cleverly not playing exactly what was on the record, but rather adjusting tempos, changing up lyrics, and allowing Mick Jones to out his repressed Ron Wood as circumstances dictated. Now, it was pointed out by the All Music Guide that though this album collects live performances of songs from all the Clash's records besides their masterpiece Cut the Crap (and Force Me To Eat A Big Bowl Of It), it's really pretty difficult to tell what year they're actually performing the tune. Is it in some grungy London club in 1978 or is it onstage in Giants Stadium dodging beer bottles thrown by Who fans? I'll be motherfucked if I can tell...either these guys were really good at remembering exactly how they felt when they recorded their early hits or they just really ran out of good ideas by the time they recorded Sandinista! and Combat Schlock. Whatever it is, they play killer versions of just about each and every tune here, especially their early years. They give us 'Clash City Rockers', a land-speed-record version of 'I Fought the Law', and a godly 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' that makes me reconsider my decision that there are no supernatural forces in the world. The tradeoff is that there's only three from London Calling (the title track, 'Guns of Brixton', and a nasty 'Train In Vain') but only one song from their cruddy triple album ('Magnificient Seven', which I still think is what is piped in over the PA in Tupac Shukur's personal torture chamber down in Hell, though this version at least has a nice class-battling tirade by Strummer). And the three closing Combat Rock songs remind me what a letdown that album was as closure for this once-great band.
Capn's Final Word: Hell, what else can be said? It's more than just the studio versions played the same old way, and oftentimes it's better. Much of it is just amazing rock music played by real human people.
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Bri Diaz email@example.com Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: Shit. I love the Clash, I really do┘but, damn. Starting out with 'Complete Control' from the Bonds residency in '81 almost made me weep with joy when I first heard it, and their versions of "London's Burning" (better than studio recording) and "What's My Name" are both pretty bitchin'; theyre energetic, passionate √ and they can be seen preformed live on the film 'Rude Boy. I mean, come on guys, you could have given the people something theyve never heard before, like a previously unearthed version of 'Pressure Drop (Im not sure if this time I should be blaming the record company or Strummer and Jonesys bumbling arses).
Feh, I even like 'City of the Dead' (IMHO, weak studio recording), and 'Armagiddeon Time' is kind of interesting. But the rest of the tracks suck nut. They picked the shittiest representations from post-Topper era Clash circa '82 of classics like 'White Man, 'Clash City Rockers, 'Career Opportunities, even the haunting 'Straight to Hell. Also, the song choices are boring and predictable. Where's 'Safe European Home' (which they did fantastically live), or 'Tommy Gun', or 'Police and Thieves', (which by the way was originally done by Junior Murvin and Lee 'Scratch Perry) or 'Washington Bullets┘and I know those motherfuckers didn't compile a Clash live album without 'White Riot. Oh wait, yes they did.
Its too bad, because they really are a tremendous live act, but I dont think theyre fairly represented in this mediocre collection. Almost
makes you wanna stab Mick Jones in the face with a soldering iron.
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