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The Clash – [Album]

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Wednesday, 09 October 2013

At this stage of the game (now eleven years after the death of Joe Strummer and almost thirty since the demise of The Clash), there is already no shortage of “definitive” greatest hits compilations which boast The Clash's name. The ground has been tread and tremendous care has already put in to such endeavors, so the obvious question has to become, “Why might the world need another Clash best-of?” Well, the truth is that it probably doesn't – but what makes Hits Back an interesting listen is the fact that the surviving members of The Clash (Mick Jones, Topper Headon and Paul Simonon) were the ones who took the time to decide what should really go into the set, and then made sure that there was actually a good flow to it rather than allowing it to be a completely utilitarian or “desert-only” exercise. In keeping with what Joe Strummer reportedly used to do for The Clash's live sets, Hits Back has an ebb and flow to it, with high and low points to help put focus on particular songs. In tribute to that ethic too, the surviving bandmembers go out of their way to explain that Hits Back is based on Strummer's set list conceived for The Clash's Brixton Fairdeal show which happened in 1982.

As trite as it might sound, there's no denying that Hits Back does make for a really, really good mix tape. All of the staples that the most cursory of fans could hope for are present (there's “London Calling,” “Know Your Rights,” “Rock The Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” et cetera), but the inclusions of lesser known songs like “Brand New Cadillac,” “Career Opportunities” and “Clampdown” make for a nice personal touch. In including those tracks, the band guarantees that listeners will get the impression of some thought having gone into the creation of this run-time rather than it just being a completely impersonal slab of plastic on which the songs that everyone knows are contained. It plays as though the band wants listeners to understand that these are the songs everyone should know first and, if a listener likes them, they'd be well advised to start looking for The Clash's other albums because they'll find more on those that they'd be interested to hear. Readers might be skeptical at the prospect of Hits Back playing like such an effective advertisement for The Clash's catalogue, but one listen will prove it's true.

Artist:

www.theclash.com/
www.facebook.com/theclash
www.twitter.com/TheClash

Album:

Hits Back
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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The Clash – [Album]

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Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Since Joe Strummer‘s passing, the proliferation of greatest hits packages, movie soundtracks, compilations of dubious origin and other “treasures” that ostensibly pay lip service to The Clash has increased at a rate of about one and a half per year but, really, from a studio recordings standpoint, this one makes the most logistical sense. The band’s legend has only grown since Strummer, Simonon and company called it quits in 1986 and the band’s fans have only grown more rabid as time has worn on; they’ve collected everything there is to collect, they’ve argued every point there is to argue and they’ve analyzed every ounce of minutiae there is to read into – in short, the only market left unsaturated is the uninitiated and under-aged. That’s what makes The Singles eco-case such a great comp – in its twenty tracks is contained the most legendary and life-changing moments in The Clash’s career. The album pulls together those songs that still garner radio play (“London Calling”, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”, “White Riot”, “Rock The Casbah”) as well as those that are truly famous or infamous (“Train In Vain,” “Complete Control”, “In Hammersmith Palais”) that creates an ‘all-killer-no-filler’ vibe and dodges the ill-advised stylistic stretching (read: all stuff from the band’s records released before Cut The Crap – which really lived up to the latter part of its name) that plagued the band’s later output. For potential fans that are unfamiliar with The Clash, The Singles is a handy taste-tester because it showcases the band only at their best without indulging in precious moments for long-time fans or the band themselves. Some will say that this album is superficial, but that’s the point; as a sales tool and gateway into The Clash for young punks unfamiliar with the band, it’d be difficult to ask for better from a content standpoint.

By the same token, you might be saying yourself as you gaze upon the above cover, “This isn't a new release. I saw this on shelves eighteen months ago – is Ground Control really that out of date?” No, of course not – if ever proof was requisite that the music industry is a little worried about flagging sales, it is The Singles. Relying upon not only established bands, but established compilation titles by them is one thing, but this release has another gimmick to entice potential record buyers concerned about the environment: a plastic-free (except for the disc itself) package made from recycled paper with a slightly different design to facilitate easy opening, closing and security. The existence of these new economically and ecologically friendly editions would actually make for a very interesting socio-economical discussion; obviously because of the waste-free nature of mp3s, they’re an attractive medium to secure their favorite music but, will these Eco-cases be the wave of the future for audiophiles that crave the concrete document but still wish to save resources? Or is this simply another way for a worried industry to make cost-effective product? Discuss.

Artist:

The Clash's Official web site

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The Clash – [Album]

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Sunday, 05 October 2008

Punk rock has been around long enough now (the actual duration and ‘first release’ title varies, but everyone can pretty much agree that the match was struck between thirty and thirty-five years ago) that the genre has had the opportunity to develop a mythos as well as a sort of revisionist history to support the lore. For example, it has been advocated by several of the older lions that the genre got a head of steam under it because the original punks wanted to rebel against the twin threats of flared pant legs and classic rock masturbation that didn’t speak to them. It’s an incredibly attractive image of rebellion – but it’s only partially true. Think I’m on crack? When The Clash played at the 50,000-capacity crowd at Shea Stadium on October 13, 1982, they were actually the mid-card band on the bill – between David Johansen (the New York Dolls had broken up) and (wait for it) The Who.

In spite of the fact that they were battling some serious star power that night, it does need to be said that, of the lot, The Clash was the only act firing on all cylinders. From a contextual standpoint, David Johansen was at a creative low from which he’d never really recover and The Who weren’t faring much better; having just released the forgettable It’s Hard and already well on its way to being the big-ticket nostalgia act they’d remain until John Entwistle’s passing in 2002. In that way, The Clash could pretty much have done anything and been the standout band that night but they went one better and delivered a career-defining set as well as blowing the heavyweights off the stage.

From the opening introductory snarl, The Clash already has the audience enthralled as they launch into “London Calling” but, from there, the band repays the crowd in kind by issuing what would later be considered a ‘greatest hits’ set played hard and meticulously. The posturing that the band has always been accused of actually works well in a live setting; occasional calls of “If you don’t know what’s going on, just ask the person next to you” out on the mic incite the crowd into fits of ecstasy and the band just eats the energy up. Volcanic performances of “The Guns Of Brixton,” “Train In Vain,” “Should I Stay Of Should I Go,” “I Fought The Law” and a raucous, rampaging version of “Rock The Casbah” secure the performance an essential status, but even when the group cranks up the energy on more throwaway songs including “Spanish Bombs,” “Clampdown” and “Police On My Back” they fly high. Not that The Clash weren’t always regarded as one of the best UK punk bands to see live (others, like the Sex Pistols, were great on record but excruciatingly bad on stage), but anyone that’s heard the bootlegs of older shows can tell you that the Shea Stadium set was inspired; it simply does not get better than this.

Of course, while no one knew it at the time, it would never be so good again. Even at Shea Stadium, The Clash were coming undone; drummer Topper Headon had already been evicted from the drum seat and replaced with reinstated original drummer Terry Chimes, Mick Jones and Joe Strummer were already beginning to feud and the group was crumbling under the weight of decreased morale. Less than a year later and Jones would be fired from The Clash, Chimes would leave citing his distaste for the band’s internal problems and the band limped along with rotating personnel sapping their strength for another four years before calling it a day. They played bigger shows after Shea (in 1983, the band played to half a million people at the US Festival), but there’s no doubt that their show at Shea Stadium in 1982 was a crowning achievement for the band. This CD captures that set and shows something honestly incredible; it’s a moment that everyone – fan or not – should hear because, love The Clash or hate them, everyone can appreciate a frozen magic moment.

Band:

The Clash Online

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