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?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Joe Strummer And The Mescaleros - Streetcore (2003)

Although I just reviewed The Clash, I feel this inordinate sense of duty to highlight the late great Joe Strummer on account of the recently released film about him, Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, which I won't be able to see (limited release) because of Hollywood's corporate stranglehold on the American dollar; if Joe were here, he'd offer up viewings everywhere out of his own pockets. Anyhow, for those not in the know, Joe did not disappear completely after The Clash, although he did have a dark period for many years. Formed in 1999, Joe And The Mescaleros released three solid albums: Rock Art And The X-Ray Style , Global A Go-Go and Streetcore (which was released following his death and reportedly features mostly first takes for the vocals). The first two albums are quite diverse in a worldly sense and feature folk rhythms, multi-cultural musical styles (African, Irish, etc.) and reggae dubs.

Streetcore, though, is what I would call a return to the Clash sound -- not entirely, but it's quite prominent. In fact, I think Streetcore is a better album than the sloppy but popular Combat Rock and the sprawling 36-song muddled monstrosity that is Sandinista. Disagree with me; go for it, but not until you listen to it because I know you probably haven't. "Coma Girl," the first track, sounds like a long lost Clash song with its familiar punky riff, but before it can even sink in, "Get Down Moses" -- a swaggering reggae romp -- gives you this swelling feeling inside you, as if you know that what you're hearing is indeed something very special.

"Redemption Song" is an acoustic cover of the Bob Marley song and is definitely, like Marley's ruminations on his own mortality at its writing, a plaintive rendition for Joe's imminent passing. "Burnin' Streets" is probably, I would say, the best song on the album, although I'm at a loss for words on how to describe it other than it's a touch sad when Joe sings about how "London is burning" -- except this time sans the menace or growl like he would in the Clash's hey-day. Still, by the time you're done listening, you may have -- as I had -- a feeling of lingering excitement -- an unconscious precursor of the next Joe Strummer release. And then you remember the congenital heart defect. And then all you can ever do is just listen again. Rest in peace, Joe. B


Paul said...

Touching review, Hatter. I remember the shock and despair when I heard of Joe's passing. For the longest time, I have this tear-duct thing going on every time I hear Redemption Song, and it still happens from time to time. My (then) teenage kids have both become a bit of a fan on account of their Dad's predilection for good music of yore.

The Mad Hatter said...


"Redemption Song" does that too me as well. It's a Bob Marley Song, but it feels like it was meant for Joe.