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An Album You Must Own: London Calling

posted Mar 25, 2011, 9:58 PM by Golden Knight

By Christian Romo


The Clash certainly didn’t have to switch up their formula. After all, their debut album made The Ramones shake in their leather boots (the only band to do that to The Ramones, I might add) as their raw political angst came off just a bit more powerful and smarter than everyone else’s. And while they went for the hit album with the disappointing Give ‘Em Enough Rope, the songs still weren’t half bad.

So to follow up with a 19 song album searching every corner of the world for inspiration is plain stupid considering the potential The Clash had as punk gods, but as it was evident that they searched for meaning in their lyrics for their debut, their music needed to follow suit. In short, they needed to grow up.

The title track is quite misleading; hailed as one of the best British songs ever, it also happens to be their least innovative on their album. It gives the listener the impression that their anger had grown some chest hair and they had learned a thing or two from living in such a god-awful place as 1970’s England. But their music heads across the pond and ventures into black America with the stripped down blues of “Brand New Cadillac” and the less-than-admirable “Jimmy Jazz”. Both are duds, and it certainly was an inauspicious start to their tour of the world.

Their excursion into Jamaica, however, is solid gold. The band boasts a fantastic horn section while flying through the ridiculously catchy “Rudie Can’t Fail” and the ska banger “Wrong ‘Em Boyo”. “The Guns of Brixton” is a dub classic and “Revolution Rock” may just be the best attempt at reggae by any white band.

Both “The Right Profile” and “Hateful” are ironic pop gems and had to have been listened to by English offspring The Smiths and The Cure. “Lost in the Supermarket” is a clever disco makeover and the original hidden (or mistakenly unprinted as some have claimed) track “Train in Vain” was an undeniable hit stateside. The Clash never forgot their angst as “Clampdown” and “Death or Glory” showed some more mature sides of that old fiery nastiness.

No one will like every track, but there is something for every taste. The one downside of this album is that it gave the band an aura of invincibility, and why shouldn’t it have? It’s a fantastic album, one that introduced many different musical styles to the hungry population of Britain and helped ease the transition for the gobbers from hardcore punk to, well, anything.

Could the band do anything? No, and their next few albums showed the same ambition and not nearly the quality expected from this legendary band. As individual songs, none of them are near the top of their genre, but as a collection, this is quite possibly the most important album of all time.