Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Clash - London Calling (1979)

For London Calling, the release dates in the UK and US (December 1979 and January 1980, respectively) signify a kind of bridge between what many believe to be different epochs of music -- all of which matters very little in retrospect considering the album's affinity for complete fusion of many styles. This album has been called one of the greatest of all time (I disagree heartily); it is also used as evidence that The Clash were, in a sense, the Only Band That Matters; but for all its exorbitant praise and nonsense, London Calling is one amazing double album, and is definitely situated high atop my list.

The opening title track, "London Calling," not only blows the hinges off the door for the album, it also sets the political tone. The bass throbs; the drums chop in strict fashion; the guitars plead with the world to end; Joe crows at the apocalypse. It's amazing, and it's only the first song. As a double album, I have no desire to trek through each track, but I will offer a brief summation, to give you a sense of the various styles on the album: "Rudie Can't Fail" is a nod to reggae; "Clampdown" sounds like a Nazi rejoinder filtered through a punk song; "Train In Vain" is the Clash basically showing all the subsequent 80s poseurs how to write a good pop song; "I'm Not Down" is a chipper but churlish up-tempo song; "Brand New Cadillac" is an intense rockabilly cover; "Wrong 'Em Boyo" is an upbeat ska number; "Hateful" and "Death Or Glory" are just pure, vintage Clash; and tell me, who's ever been "Lost In The Supermarket?"

Double albums usually indicate that a band has attained a certain bloated sense of craftsmanship and are going for the artistic nuts, be it of epic quality, rock opera bust or, in the Clash's case, a way of simply giving its fans double the songs for the price of one by tricking its record company and such a gift having been the family jewels. On "London Calling," Joe sings, commenting on the probable death of the punk movement, that "Phony Beatlemania has the bitten the dust." He was right; good thing London Calling wasn't a punk album. A


Barbara (aka Layla) said...

I don't want to sound like a broken record (no pun intended) but this is another great review of one of my all time faves.

Yours is one of the only reviews of London Calling that has not mentioned the ballsy move of The Clash choosing to copy the cover of an Elvis LP's artwork.

The Mad Hatter said...

It's such a fresh album; it's so hard not to love it. As for the cover, it is pretty symbolic that they used Elvis' album cover with Paul Simonon smashing his poor bass -- the album simply turns music on its head. I miss Joe.