Web Exclusive! Review of the Day ? The Clash: The Singles

TheClashTheSingles-01-01.jpgThe Clash

The Singles

Epic/Legacy (88697 11366 2)

Grade: ***

There’s cold, hard cash to be made off dead bands, and the grave of The Clash is one that keeps getting robbed over and over again.

What this collection amounts to is a mix-tape of Clash singles, namely the 18 A-sides of last year’s 19-CD box set with the glaring exception of “Capital Radio.” The choices were that easy, and although this is more digestible than that massive undertaking, it doesn’t offer much reason for anybody outside the greenest of Clash newcomers to pick it up.

Not that something like that would ever concern a label with the commitment to capitalism of Epic/Legacy. Joe Strummer must be rolling over in that same picked-through coffin.

Epic/Legacy does throw us a few bones. “Train in Vain,” famed for being the “hidden” track on The Clash’s 1979 masterpiece, London Calling, and “Groovy Times,” a promo single released only in the U.S. on the four-song UK EP The Cost Of Living are included.

No complaints can be made about the music itself. Fiery punk anthems “Remote Control,” “White Riot,” “Clash City Rockers” and “Complete Control” are exhumed from The Clash’s self-titled debut, and they sound just as defiant and revolutionary as ever, as does “English Civil War (Johnny Comes Marching Home)” from Give ‘Em Enough Rope.

The reggae-splashed “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais,” also off that first album, shows that even at this tender age, the Clash knew their way around an island groove.

Dub-infused “Bankrobber,” the Middle-Eastern vibe of “Rock The Casbah” and the militaristic space-punk of “The Call Up” see the Clash taking off into new, surprising directions and succeeding at styles they seemingly had no business even attempting.

But, unless you’ve been living in the caves with Saddam, you probably know all this already, and The Singles isn’t going to teach you anything new about a group that is still, and always will be, “the only band that matters.” That is, until you get to the liner notes, where luminaries like The Edge, Damon Albarn of Blur, Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and novelist Irvine Welsh (“Trainspotting,” “The Acid House”) are summoned to offer tribute to The Clash.

There’s nothing especially revealing about the commentary, but it’s interesting to hear how the Clash influenced all them, whatever their art. (legacyrecordings.com)

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