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As I sat down to write this review and saw the previous reviews before having written even a word I was surpised to see such average rates and worse even the Clash, perhaps the most iconic punk band of all time, being listed as "Indie Rock". I have all of the Clash albums although I still have my favourites of course. I am rare in that I don't favour an entire album but rather have my favourite songs throughout and string these together to create my own unique favourite.
Know Your Rights - This song is not necessarily well known outside of Clash fans yet I personally think it is one of their greatest. A statement on society and our own ignorance with what we really have personal freedom over, it is a marvel of music as well as politics. A particularly poignant line I enjoy in the song (and one I have splattered across a t shirt of mine) is "You have the right to free speech as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it". Although I'm not one to really listen to music for the sake of societal enlightenment I do feel that the so called message behind this particular song is a strong one as although we feel so compelled we do in fact have free speech more and more often are people rallying against the dreaded "political correctness" and also are arrested for comments they post on the internet. Whilst I am not a tyranny of such pursuits, I do think it worth mentioning as a theory at the very least. The song has the typical steady base line and the drivel of Joe Strummer, the bands vocalist, goes on throughout the song. While not necessarily a champion of music all in itself any music lover cannot escape the excellent guitar riffs as well as the distinct rhthym and creativity of the track.
Car Jamming - The intro in this one is particularly attention drawing, although I must admit this song does sometimes fail to capture my attention. Joe Strummer executes the vocals in his tyical quite iconic non-English, barely translatable diction and Paul Simonon (the band's bass player - hired for his dress sense and then taught to play guitar!) provides backing. A less aggressive song with a more mellow chorus yet still energised almost solely by Strummer. An ok song but not one I would say did not live up to the Clash name.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? - An iconic song of British punk rock and for some reason often heralded as the Clash's best song (this or perhaps London Calling) SISOSIG is nonetheless a great song that does not let down. It had been said that the Clash sometimes make the mistake of organising all of their 'best' songs at the front of the album and this sometimes puts people off, but in my humble opinion it draws people in and enables them to listen to the less known, and definitely not less successful, tracks and appreciate what I would describe as the true clash. Not entirely gimmicky (and not that well dressed either!) the Clash extend their gritty punk rock name and this song exceeds the success of the album, probably being familiar to near all of us due to its constant appearance in films and adverts and not because we all coincidentally happened to listen to this album. In my opinion this song is quite mainstream in terms of Clash sound and no wonder it achieved such popularity. Not a favourite song of mine due to what I would name as repetitive riffs and vague lyrics which when paired with other more poignant ones falls flat.
Rock the Casbah - Perhaps one of my favourite songs and probably losing me many cool factors, this song is a triumph of disco sound and political lyrics. The entire band contribute and are all distinct and excellent. A song that resembles funk, it brances away from their punk name and shows that the Clash are virtuosos of all genres. One of their greatest songs and yet tragically one of their least known, Rock the Casbah is excellent on all fronts.
Red Angel Dragnet - This is not necessarily a great song but rather a way to showcase the band's drummer Topper Headon's excellent and very skilled technique. I must admit I don't really like this song, but it makes for a nice transition into the next song...
Straight to Hell - Undoubtedly my favourite Clash song Straight to Hell acts as a crescendo to the album. A very jolting and what I would describe as perhaps a little awkward song, the lyrics and the music are a great match and never fail to make me feel a little emotional (which is weird as this is probably the only song that can do so). The song is said to be about injustice (as many of the Clash's songs are) and quite obviously the Vietnam War also. Tragic lines such as "Amerisian Blues", which reference orphaned children, and xenophobia towards immigrants are enough to pervade even a heart of stone. This song is often sampled (much to my dismay by the female rapper M.I.A.) and even was covered by Lily Allen and the band's lead guitarist Mick Jones who happens to be the god daughter of the late Joe Strummer. She undoubtedly does the song justice and fits in with its awkward and yet beautiful sound allowed by the lyrics. Reminscent of the Stranglers with its background violins and haunting orchestra sound, this song shows the band at its best, this song alone is enough to buy the album.
Overpowered By Funk - Again more funk for this album, reinforcing the idea that the band can showcase a huge variety of sounds. Quite a lengthy song but still a fun, lively one this is really one to show off the band's talent if anything. A funky song but coming in far up the rear of my favourite tracks.
Sean Flynn - Not necessarily punk but not really anything else either. This ones a bit jazzy but also quite consistent and not one I really enjoy all that much. This song pretty much serves as a transition into the ending of the album and is quite inoffensive and also uninteresting too.
Ghetto Defendant - A song that kind of faulters musically and although Strummer is known for sometimes being completely off the wall vocally, this song just is a little too much for me and one I don't particularly enjoy all that much either.
Inoculated City - The penultimate song features vocals from both Strummer and Jones and the harmony is excellent as always and is a sound I really enjoy. An eclectic mix of sounds that enjoys Jones at the very end also. A decent enough effort.
Death Is A Star - The final track on the album is definitely pretty different and introduces us to the 'new' Clash that would yet follow. Quite sombre and haunting the piano accompaniment is excellent as are the vocals and story. This song is not one of their best, but I don't this its bad either, just like I say not THE best. A good ending to a great album.
This is an album I enjoyed with many great tracks that outweight the slightly poorer ones. Being home to two of my favourite songs and not just from this band, I cannot help but reward the album at least 4/5 stars. However the less successful songs are probably only so due to how far they stray from the norm and that maybe I'm not comfortable with this as I see the band as being a very distinctive way. This then isn't necessarily a reflection on the songs but rather my own thoughts. A good album with many catchy, thought provoking and different sounding tracks. A great buy.
Joe Strummer- Vocals, Guitar
Mick Jones- Lead Guitar, Vocals
Paul Simonon- Bass, Vocals
Topper Headon- Drums
All of sudden the Clash turn into lazy bastards. Can you believe it was two full years before they followed up Sandinista!? I mean, they only produced seven vinyls worth of material in three years, you'd have thought they had more in them. Anyway, obviously commercially Sandinista! bombed so the band appeased their record company by releasing this single record set complete with not one but two bona fide smash hit singles. (After Sandinista! you can almost picture the relief on the record company bosses' faces when they heard "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Rock the Casbah".) The band even have a go at writing another straight-up aggressive rock song. Of course, this is the Clash and they weren't really going easy on us, so after the uneasy side 1 finale of "Straight to Hell" we're right back into Sandinista! territory again. Obviously side 2 is much weaker than side 1 (like Give 'em Enough Rope) but at least the band tried to write interesting songs even if it doesn't quite work. "Overpowered by Funk" is straight out of Sandinista! but not quite of the same standard whilst both "Ghetto Defendant" and "Death is a Star" are rather drab affairs relying on spoken word narration (by Allen Ginsberg in the former's case, who must have been about 60 at the time and sounds it). The thing that really strikes you about the songs on the second half is that they are meant to be by the Clash. Compare this and the first album and there is just no similarity whatsoever. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing (all artists need to progress) but I don't think these sort of songs are really the Clash's forte. And what sort of songs these are I just couldn't say. Take the weirdest example, "Sean Flynn", which sounds bizarrely like a late-era Van Morrison song with a sparse background and flutes playing over the top. Hear
ing is believing and believe me, you won't believe it is the Clash. Again that isn’t necessarily a problem, but really the songs just aren't very strong. That said, two songs on the second half (the two most normal) "Atom Tan" and "Inoculated City" are both pretty decent efforts with a sort of laid-back melody. They certainly reassure me that this album is a better effort than Give 'em Enough Rope. Of course the main reason why this is a very good album can be heard on the first half. Every song, bar the bizarre "Red Angel Dragnet", is a good song and there are a handful of great songs. "Know Your Rights" opens the album, indicating a return to old ways (which the album, of course, does not deliver), with its abrasive, staccato guitar and aggressive lyrics and vocals from Strummer. Unfortunately the melody is clumsy but the sheer aggression of it (especially after Sandinista!) means it seems like a stand-out track on the album (and in a way it is). The lyrics are pretty good but the reference to "aristocrats" seems a little anachronistic and thus silly. The really great rock song on here (and perhaps the Clash's best post-London Calling song) is the infamous "Should I Stay or Should I Go" which the band sanctioned for a jeans advert in the early nineties (hypocrites) and therefore became their most famous song. It is funny how the simple riffs are often the most memorable and the Clash certainly hit upon one for this number. Yet again Strummer knows when to hand over responsibility and the far more suitable vocals of Jones elevates the song. Anyway that was Hit Single A. Hit Single B is the ethnic boogie "Rock the Casbah" which is another great song. And there is a third great song on here, even if it isn't hit single material, namely "Straight to Hell" which abandons the rock approach yet again for a more weighty meander with bril
liantly eerie instrumentation. Strummer's vocals are a bit funny but the lyrics are good, even if they are just a less ironic rip-off of the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday in Cambodia". The first side is completed with the poppy "Car Jamming" (another good song) and "Red Angel Dragnet" which is a fairly poor song. So, this album is a bit like a compact version of Sandinista! but with a bit more commercial material on it. That said, it isn't as interesting as Sandinista! and the crazy stuff doesn't fit on a normal album quite so well. Still a very good effort, though.
Not my favourite Clash album but its still has some great moments. Opening with the classic "Know Your Rights" the agenda is set from the outset...its us and them. Lyrically this could be the best clash album, with the Strummer barking out authoritarinly that "You have the right to free speech, as long enough as you are not dumb enough to try it". When he sneers "Weeeeell!" he reminds me eriely of Michael Howard, the formaer tory home secretary. There are moods of the record is one of anger mixed with fatigue (and joyous rock and roll in the form of "should i stay or should i go" and "Rock the casbah"). Stand out tracks "Ghetto Defendant" with Allen Ginsberg, "Rock The Casbah" (written mostly by Topper) and "Atom Tan". Less confused than sandinista, more adventurous, but more weary sounding.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Inoculated City
2 Know Your Rights
3 Car Jamming
4 Should I Stay Or Should I Go
5 Rock The Casbah
6 Red Angel Dragnet
7 Straight To Hell
8 Overpowered By Funk
9 Atom Tan
10 Sean Flynn
11 Ghetto Defendant
12 Death Is A Sta