Newest Review: ... experimenting with other genres such as reggae. White Riot - This song is often mistakenly confused with a kind of anthem to insight r... more
I'm So Bored with the USA
The Clash - The Clash
Member Name: m_illie
The Clash - The Clash
Advantages: Varied, excellent sounding, typically punk in some areas, clever lyrics
Disadvantages: Not for everyone's tastes
Having recently just completed a review on the Clash album Combat Rock I thought I might try my hand at the other albums I own and so thought it logical to start where it all began with their debut album - The Clash. At the forefront of punk in the 1970s the Clash opened themselves up to the world and boy am I sure glad they did.
Janie Jones - A song which deals with a famous pop singer and 'madam' at the time, Janie Jones opens up the album and does not disappoint. A very gritty song with typical Joe Strummer vocals and Mick Jones back up the song makes for a very energetic undeniably very 'punk' song. The drums are a constant heart beat throughout the track matched with quite aggressive lead guitar and a strong bass line throughout. The song is relatively short at only a little over 2 minutes but makes for a nice introduction to the album that sets up what is yet to come.
Remote Control - Next comes remote control which is a song that focuses on inequality and conformity as many of the Clash's lyrics take a political stance. Although 40 years on it may be difficult for the younger generation to understand the context of the lyrics, it is still translatable and obvious they seek to highlight failing police, bureaucrats and even record companies. The song is said to have been released without the band's consent which sparked much anger and resentment between record company and them and was subject to later songs where the incident was referenced.
I'm So Bored With the USA - Strummer takes the lead here as opposed to a duel lead as in the previous track. The song was apparently originally called I'm so bored with you and was a kind of love song about Mick Jones' then girlfriend and later renamed due to a mishearing of the original title. This track has quite a basic repetitive bass line which highlights how Paul Simonon (the band's bassist) was still learning bass as he had joined the band as a kind of style consultant rather than astute musician. You can hear the grinding guitar sound which was used only in earlier songs and mainly on Strummer songs. Here the drummer was the drummer was Terry Chimes not Topper Headon which is why the drums are also somewhat more simple (as Headon was a well known highly skilled drummer). Overall its a general punk song and from a time before the band started to branch out into experimenting with other genres such as reggae.
White Riot - This song is often mistakenly confused with a kind of anthem to insight racial hatred or to start some kind of race war but the reality is far different. The lyrics suggest JOINING in with protest against social and racial inequality rather than to fight against. The song is based on the Nottinghill Riots which occurred a year before the album's release, an series of incidents which involved fighting against a corrupt and unfair establishment. In fact the song established itself from Strummer and Simonon's own involvement in the riots where they chose to join in as a point of protest. Lyrics are not wholly negative as you might expect and include supposed-to-be-motivating lines such as "Are you taking over / Or are you taking orders? / Are you going backwards / Or are you going forwards?". A great and catchy song that is so often overlooked and should really be given a second chance.
Hate & War - A love the intro of this song which is so full of gusto and then meets with Mick Jones whining voice with back up from Strummer. The song shows that the band do not solely focus on music but are clearly very invovled and concerned with their lyrics and the song is pretty poignant if you can get past the shouty, rough sound of the guitars and volume of Mick Jones who sings with constant passion. This track is perhaps one of the first obviously non-punk songs the band ever produced and most importantly includes two of the bands most important themes which were t feature in the majority of their songs: hate and war.
What's My Name - Starting with a whining almost siren like sound, the song continues with a thick mist of sound throughout where there doesn't ever seem to be a break. The chorus continues in this fashion and features long drawn out notes from both Strummer and Jones. The bass of the chorus is particularly impressive, especially considering Simonon's limited talent at bass at this time and shows how innovative and creative the band could be so as to overcome restraints such as this.
London's Burning - Not to be confused with the later perhaps more famous London Calling, this track begins with "London's Burning" sung twice and Strummer takes the lead here and is then joined on the Chorus by Jones. The song focuses on riots and issues with London at the time and also the band's own boredom at the time. As many of the other tracks do the band discusses racial issues also and the need for racial unity although more briefly and this is not an instrumental theme.
Career Opportunities - An ironic title for a song who's lyrics discuss unemployment and opportunities that never come to fruition: "Career opportunities are the ones that never knock/ Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock". The song is relevant even today as it attacks the political and economic situation in England at the time where there was a significant lack of jobs particularly for the youth. Punk as a genre was very concerned with social and political issues and as such is a bit more important and revealing than more popular mainstream songs, particularly those of today where having a boyfriend is one's main concern!
Cheat - A very energetic and quick to start song with a lot of repetitive lyrics particularly of the chorus where the word "cheat" is simply said over and over. This is the same with the music itself where the bass is very prominent and cyclical with accents of rhythm guitar that soften a very angry harsh sounding song especially after one's first listen of it. I think the lead guitar in this song is particularly excellent and really makes me want to listen over and ever and as always the guitar provides a nice beat throughout. Another quick track which gradually fades off and leaves you wanting more.
Protex Blue - This song always makes me laugh because I remember a time when my group of friends/acquaintances were hoping to set up a band and my boyfriend suggested this as a band name, knowing full well the title referenced condoms mind you! They however didn't get it and seemed to consider it for a while much to my enjoyment. The intro which is met by a quick paced battle of guitars and Jones' voice is very enjoyable and the lyrics too make me smile with their light hearted topic. A pretty decent track with a nice composition and continues the album's successful theme.
Police & Thieves - I may be a little biased but I love this song and also love the original. This is perhaps a hint at what is yet to come in terms of other genres especially reggae as it is a remake of Junior Murvin's well-known reggae song released the year before sung in a Jamaican style. The Clash increase tempo and simultaneously the aggression within the lyrics which can be seen in lines such as 'Police and thieves in the streets/ Oh yeah/Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition ' which highlights tensions that were very much prevalent at the time and not necessarily just in our culture/country. I must admit I enjoy both versions and for their stark differences as it means I can enjoy a particularly punk song that possesses all elements required to call itself so, and then again a slow paced relaxing and yet poignant track which is perhaps a little more cryptic.
48 Hours - Strummer begins with a very gruff and non-melodic voice that fits in tune with the brash riffs and powerful drum beat throughout. The song is very short at only 1.30ish and the majority of it is an excellent guitar solo piece and repetition of "48 hours" that shows off the bands flourish in experimentation.
Garageland - Finally Garageland ends the album and is again another song with a solid meaning. The song is said to have been written by Strummer following on from a review written about the band which claimed "The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running, which would undoubtedly be more of a loss to their friends and families than to either rock or roll". This song is a kind of declaration that the band would continue as they were and were not likely to be put off by criticism. A tongue in cheek attempt to combat an off hand remark such as this, this song shows the band's sense of humour and is a nice way to round off the album. Unlike other tracks it also features harmonica which makes for a nice addition and is a track that again isn't identical to their other tracks which is refreshing. Strummers vocals are particularly interesting as he sings perhaps a little softer and loses the accent for much of the song (however it makes a sneaky return in the chorus).
Overall this is a great debut album all by itself but the fact it is the Clash makes it even better for me. A varied and perfect introduction to a punk band full of originality and talent, there isn't much to fault in this album. There is the perfect mix of political snarky lyrics and great music that mean neither is too overwhelming without the over being let down. An excellent album which set up the band for a good few years of great music and many more years of popularity that exists even today.
Summary: An interesting and risky debut album for the Clash