Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Paul Simonon putting his Fender P Bass to death on the iconic cover and the paranoia of the title track are more than worth the price of admission to the Clash's third set.
Double albums are tricky as you really have to vary the pace to maintain interest throughout. No such issues arise with "London Calling". The Clash take rock, pop, punk, reggae and ska, mix it up and blast it back with lyrics that touch on many themes. Lots of energy and real human beings playing the shit out of their instruments results in an urgency that reaches out of the speakers and demands to be heard.
Current popular music has many deficiencies. Most notably: 1) It's BORING 2) Most of it sounds fake. 3) Zero energy
This stuff is almost thirty years old and sounds as if it was released last week. The main reason? It didn't take them three years to record! In a matter of weeks, they hit these songs hard with a minimum amount of takes and retained an excitement that is sorely lacking in today's homogenized product.
Fine music it is. Four cover songs show up (one per album side) alongside the strongest material that Strummer and Jones had contributed to date. "The Guns of Brixton" is the lone track written by bassist Simonon. Elvis didn't write anything here, but he showed up in spirit.
I put this on and usually just let it go, as it's that good. Gets better with every spin, in fact.
Out of everything, "The Right Profile" wins the prize for most bizarre lyrical subject matter. Documenting the car crash of actor Montgomery Clift that damaged his face and forced him to suspend work on "Raintree County", the title comes from the actual direction to shoot his right profile as much as possible when he returned to finish the film. Hearing Strummer howl this one is a close encounter with extremely black humor.
Despite a few interesting detours into other musical forms, rock is at the heart of the most potent cuts.
Shot early in 1980, this live TV performance (Fridays) highlights the dichotomous leanings of Strummer (London Calling) and Jones (Train in Vain).
No longer primarily identified as a "punk" band by this time, genre experiments and a move toward "rock" pushed them toward greater commercial success.
The attitude remained the same.