The Rewind Button is a group blogging project instigated by Rachel Tynan. We’re writing our impressions of Rolling Stones top 40 albums of all time every Thursday.
This week: The Clash – London Calling
The Clash is one of the most appropriate band names in history. There are many aspects of this band that indeed clashed. There is a rich history of band members getting fired and quitting the band. They were a punk band that was manufactured, brought together by an empresario who saw growing capitalistic opportunity in the burgeoning british punk scene of the late 70s. Fronted by Joe Strummer, former hippie who overnight turned on the personality of a no bullshit punk abandoning his former friends. That seems like bullshit to me. A political, outspoken band against war whose song “Rock the Casbah” was later used by soliders in the US army whilst dropping bombs during the Gulf War. There was plenty that clashed about the Clash. And their sound reflects that.
There is strife and hardship in the album London Calling. The opening title track just kicks- the guitars pounding out no nonesense quater notes while the bass plays a rallying battle anthem and Joe belts a his own vocal battle cry and declares impending doom. And then they switch gears in a “Brand New Cadillac” rockabilly track. The lyrics are of love, loss, revolution, identity, war, inequality.
There is nostagic vibe for me with this album. When I was in high school I went through a heavy ska punk phase listening to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish and many others. The Specials are probably the band that I listened to that most closely resembles The Clash. I think the reason I didn’t get into them in high school is the same reason why I’m still not entirely sold on them: Joe Strummer can’t really sing. To me, it sounds like he’s really straining. And in the back of my head it makes me uncomfortable. The songs that are the most musical to my ears are the ones where a horn section adds more melody to balance out where it’s vocally flat.
That said, overall, I do like this album. I certainly prefer it to last week’s Exile. There is a lot of variety from track to track and it glues together well. London Calling was the album made just after they parted ways with their manager and really came together to pour their passion into something. It has a magic quality. That of four guys who don’t really see eye to eye and are different in so many ways, but are able to agree on giving their all to clashing together on this mosaic of an album.
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