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The Clash – The Clash (1979)


North America’s introduction to “The Last Gang In Town” would come via this pseudo compilation of selected cuts from the bands’ 1977 self titled debut and a clutch of their early singles which didn’t make it to album. The LP I’m reviewing is the Canadian version which has the rare Blue background, whereas the U.S version has the same Green background of the original. The track listing is the same on both LP’s. By 1979, North America was gripped by Punk and desperate for music from the fore fathers of the genre. Oddly, at that time, Punk had burnt out in the U.K., so the fans were pulling music from a bygone era. It didn’t matter that the band were now a stadium Rock act. What North American fans wanted was the roots behind the massive musical and cultural changes that had taken place in the U.K., and The Clash represented the sheer unadulterated Punk revolution. So they threw their REO Speedwagon and Styx LP’s in the gutter and adopted the Safety Pin, Mohawk and Destroy T-shirt.

As a stand alone album “The Clash” is unique in many ways. Firstly, it’s badly produced and recorded. The tinny drums, thin Bass, and muddied Guitars quite frankly sound amateurish. Joe Strummers’ vocals are far from perfect, he slurs, and grunts like a Neanderthal football boot boy, bleating out words that convey a message of passionate despondence. What is so immeasurably endearing about the album is the passion of it all. They rage and rant about their lives, the disassociated teenage angst, misunderstood by years of dereliction of inspiration and aspiration, working class wanderers in the faceless, empty concrete jungle they call home. Their only route out is through Rock & Roll, the original “Garage Band” as conveyed perfectly on the closing track. The message doesn’t just come through the lyrics either, and they play their instruments with the vigour of a group of men teetering on the edge of furious meltdown. They steal Riffs, they play hard, but at no stage does one ever feel that the charging rhythms and relentless Rock Guitar breaks are staged. They seriously believe in what the message is, and whatever they have to do to make the world listen, they’ll scream it out.

Every song is a killer for one reason or another. They cross reggae boundaries confidently with Junior Murvin’s “Police And Thieves” and the outstanding “White Man In Hammersmith Palais”. They inadvertently nod to The Who with the Rifferama based anthems “Clash City Rockers” and “Jail Guitar Doors”. “Career Opportunities”, “London’s Burning”, and “White Riot” blurt out the political tensions they felt no-one was confronting. Their Hard Rock is sonically invigorating and you only have to play the first ten seconds of “I Fought The Law” or “Janie Jones” to realize that this is something that is sonically revolutionary. This reviewer struggles to pick out favourites, primarily because the songs are all so powerfully individual, but if you were to tie me down to a pick, the one I’d take with me would be the brilliant “Complete Control”. When Strummer shouts out “I don’t judge you, why do you judge me ?” he’s speaking for a generation.

The Clash remain England’s most precious musical talent, and this album reminds everybody why.



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