George Starostin's Reviews



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X <> (18.08.2004)

I'll tell you, I was never a punk rocker. In the 80's I was a geeky black kid who got forced into cello lessons. But when I got to college and heard the clash--everything, EVERYTHING changed. The clash is the soundtrack to my youth. To the anti apartheid protests on my college. To my first arrest. And my best boyfriend. (Am more into women now.) So, it's more nostalgia for me now. But I had never heard 'This Is England' before just a few days ago. Bought a complilation cd and listened to it. The song brought tears to my eyes. All my dreams and right welled up in me and sent me to a different place. Where everything was up for grabs and fighting in the streets was the righteous duty of all youth. Am older now. Have dreadlocks but am seriously considering cutting them off in favor of a mohawk. The Clash, Joe Strummer. Now and forever.

Mike O'Connell <> (23.09.2006)

I'm in agreement with you about the first two Clash albums. One correction here:

"The second side is a little less inspiring (what with yet another 'Can't Explain' rip-off in 'Guns On The Roof' and a couple throwaways like 'Cheapskates'), but still, it does have a great Beatlesque pop number in 'Stay Free' (is that really Strummer singing? Sounds more like John Lennon to me!), and the band's personal anthem 'All The Young Punks', certainly a specific response to Bowie/Mott the Hoople's 'All The Young Dudes', is a good note to finish the album on."

Mick Jones sings on "Stay Free."

Also regarding Sandinista, I have heard that it was made a triple album either to fulfil contractual obligations for number of albums or because the record company had counted London Calling as a single album and the Clash wanted to spite them. The first theory sounds more plausible. In either case, word is that the ploy was unsuccessful.


Rich Bunnell <> (12.10.2000)

Well, it's nice that this album has at least progressed from "one of the most boring albums you own" to "a good album." Myself, I generally go with popular opinion in that it's a great, energetic, pissed-off (but not too pissed-off) set of songs. The American version of the album probably doesn't flow as well (but it's not exactly a concept album any*way), but tunes like "Clash City Rockers," "I Fought The Law" and "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" are great, GREAT tracks and definitely justify their own presences. "Clash City Rockers" rips off "I Can't Explain," but it's one of those ripoffs that constructs an equally-worthy melody around the ripoff, like The Jam's "Start!"(which took the guitar line from "Taxman" by the Beatles). "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A." and "Career Opportunities" are both great songs too, and the rest -- it isn't very distinctive, but none of it's really bad at all (and this is a punk album, so that's saying a lot!). A nine, or maybe a really high eight.

Nick Karn <> (12.10.2000)

Well, I'm glad you gave this record at least some credit - even though I do love this album quite a bit, I'm still fairly satisfied with your review. I have the American version of The Clash as well, though I am curious how the original British one compares - hopefully it's not a similar thing to comparing the American and British versions of Beatles albums. Anyway, good call on "Remote Control" for the pick as 'best song' - that one's among the catchiest, and I just love the bassline that shows up throughout. For me, it's one of the two or three best here, along with "London's Burning" (which really rips with intensity plus it has an awesome verse groove) and "White Man In Hammersmith Palais", featuring the most provocative lyrics and a great foray into the reggae world they'd explore even more heavily later on. That last song is one of the few diversions on the record, though, as I definitely agree that this album hardly varies in mood in the least - it's all anger, violence, and hate here. But there are enough great hooks and energy for me to enjoy it almost straight through. As far as the records that fit into the general opinion of 'punk rock', this is my favorite such album, though you're definitely right that punk in its' pure form is just a springboard to better things. This record in reality is just a great pop record that happens to be angrier than most great pop records. Most punk bands generally don't base their approach on melody anywhere near as much as The Clash did, and they usually make the same record over and over again, certainly unlike The Clash.

I would have given this an objective rating of 10 on my scale if not for the fact a couple songs on the second half just aren't as well-written as the others, like "Hate And War" and "Garageland". I don't entirely feel that the second half all passes me by - "Career Opportunities", "Jail Guitar Doors" and "Police And Thieves", for instance, are still as memorable to me as anything on the album. My overall rating would probably be a very high 12 or a low 13, and it's the best album of theirs I've heard so far, but I will refrain from declaring it the best overall until I've heard the other important works like Give Em Enough Rope and Sandinista!

Ben Greenstein <> (18.10.2000)

A very good album, I'd even say essential. It's the one punk record I've heard that doesn't sound like a cliched self-parody. These guys are actually writing songs - and, although they haven't yet reached the level of sophistication of "London Calling" (which isn't that sophisticated, to be honest), there are a lot of catchy bits on the songs. Not quite "hooks," but still very pleasant melodies. Lots of energy, too, which is the album's main drawing factor. Best songs are easily two of the American-release only ones - "Clash City Rockers" and "White Man In Hammersmith Palais." Very exiting, well-written pop. There are a couple of weaker songs, but they don't take away from the high quality of the others (they're all short!). A high 9/10.

Jeff Blehar <> (25.10.2000)

Like the others, I applaud the fact that your stance on The Clash sure has changed a lot from your flame-guaranteed remarks on Prindle's site back in the day. But of course I still think you underrate it.  And I think this is essentially due to the fact that your prime criterion for musical quality (not ONLY, just prime) is melody.  Nothing wrong with that most of the time, as it's a pretty solid basis to judge things and the one that I most often go with, but you underrate such non-melodic factors as attitude and energy. And while The Clash is short on melodies, that was never what the "punk" movement was about. So please, everyone looking for something to hum can take their hats out of the ring right now: this is not your cuppa joe.

Before I move onto weightier topics, let me first compare the two versions of The Clash for those of you who aren't sure which to get (both have now been remastered - by all means buy the new Clash remasters, which are just as cheap as the old ones and much better done).  I bought the US version first, and I loved it, but truthfully the added songs ("White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)," "Jail Guitar Doors," "Complete Control," "Clash City Rockers," and "I Fought The Law") don't belong here, either stylistically or thematically.  Most of them are classics, "White Man," "Complete Control," and "I Fought The Law" especially (the first is perhaps their greatest-ever single, the second one of the definitive hard-rock statements of the era, and the third a superfunupdate of the immortal Bobby Fuller Four song), but they're out of place in terms of production, riffage, and length.  "I Fought The Law" actually dates from right before London Calling! (which is possible because the US version of The Clash wasn't released until 1979, after Give 'Em Enough Rope). Furthermore, they cock up the pacing of the UK album which was just right in starting with "Janie Jones" and tearing through all the way to the "Police And Thieves" breather. The tracks missing from the US version ARE inferior, yes, but in this case the entire album is of a piece and they contribute to the effect. One thing the US version does well: placing "Remote Control" and "Complete Control" one after another was a nice stroke, as the second was obviously written about the first. But about punk in general...

Returning to non-musical factors, "Punk" WAS a forward step for music and not a regression (as you have argued controversially elsewhere on this site) because of its NON-musical factors; its combination of the devil-may-care barn-burning of Jerry Lee and Elvis with the noise of the Stooges and the NY Dolls PLUS (and here's the important plus, as well what separates The Clash from ultimately destructive acts like the Pistols) the POLITICS, the spirit of it all, the threatening level of intelligence which so obviously lay behind the unsubtle musical attack.  Punk shook things up because it gave the impression that the lower-classes were not only angry in their usual inarticulate way, but - holy SHIT LOOK OUT! - they were all of sudden viciously eloquent about it as well.  The Clash's lyrics are unsubtle compared to the real art (that's not sarcastic) they'd spin off later in their career, but the point is that, as Lester Bangs astutely observed, when Joe Strummer calls for a "White Riot" it's somehow a positive statement, not a howl of nihilism. "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A." is loved by every American Clash fan *I* know because it's so refreshingly upfront; believe it or not, this hadn't been said before, and certainly not as catchily.  The album is quite emphatically NOT all "anger and hate."  Don't be fooled by the titles: the song "Hate & War" is explicitly against both of those things, deploring the fact that at the time it seemed to be the "only currency."   And if "Career Opportunities" (now THERE's a catchy one!  The best Elvis Costello song that Elvis Costello never wrote) is an "angry" protest, well certainly it's no more so than "Masters Of War" or "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll."  It just speaks of a different life experience.

I'm 20.  My heart is thoroughly cool and quenched and my conscience slumbers peacefully at the sight of wickedness, and yet these songs still speak TO me, if not FOR me.  The only way they would be able to do that, seeing as how I don't identify really in any way with these sentiments, was if The Clash really WAS a "serious artistic statement."  Ephemeral music tends not to be able to constantly hit new generations with the same power it had at its inception.  But, as those with open minds would tell you, The Clash is anything but ephemeral.  Tied in some ways to the time it was released and the issues of the youths it spoke for, it transcends that to become one of the most important, and most rewarding, albums of the past 25 years.  A 9 or 14 for this one.  

Colin Hughes <> (17.01.2001)

I think, at some point, we have to ask if this music has any real value (but I guess it does to some people). I remember when it was released and nobody listened to it. Jones is a terrible singer -- but of course punk is not about singing. The predominant (or sole) emotion is adolescent anger, but again, I guess some people are inspired somehow by that sort of thing. It was supposed to be an anthem for the generation, etc. but it was actually very boring musically and no one could take it seriously -- except for the music magazines who were looking for something to prop up a dying art form (rock & roll that is). There aren't any melodies worth remembering and I'd question whether they can play instruments.

The biggest problem is that they did try to take this all very seriously. In many ways, it's more pompous than Jon Anderson ever was because it was deliberately amateurish and juvenile music that masqueraded as social commentary (Yes & Jethro Tull at least tried to create something original). So, I'd say it commits the worst fault of having no humor and believing itself to be superior to the music that came before, at the same time simply rehashing the old rock clichés. Yawn.

I don't know how this could merit a 10. I'd put it one under the Sex Pistols' first with a 2, and that based strictly on the minimal shock value it had for a small audience in 1977 along with an interesting album cover. Punk was much more about image -- mainly album covers and clothing -- than about original or interesting music. The one exception was Wire's Pink Flag which was the only musically competent recording of the punk era. After that nothing more needed to be said (how many ways can one express adolescent rage? -- and I'm still surprised that otherwise intelligent people would spend time listening to it).

Bob Josef <> (13.03.2002)

The boxed set Clash on Broadway is a pretty good bargain for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it includes all of the songs on both the American and British versions of the first album (although "Janie Jones" and "Career Opportunities" are the original demos and "I Fought the Law" is live). Of course, like everybody else, I'll bash the basic level of musicianship here -- only Jones sounds like he's a competent player at this time. Of course, virtuosity was never the point -- the lyrics of "Garageland" make the band's philosophy quite clear.

But the record succeeds because they do know how to write catchy melodies. "London's Burning," for instance, with different lyrics and arrangement, could be a very trippy pop song from another era. Sometimes they're masked with breakneck tempos ("White Riot," "Deny") or murky vocals, but the Clash also get high points for energy.

Another reason to get Broadway is that the complete lyrics are included. You can therefore see that, even at the beginning, the Clash were trying to write intelligent, articulate lyrics which weren't always comprehensible in performance. Of course, some are dated (like "Protex Blue" -- nobody needs a 25-year-old song about condoms nowadays), but they more frequently succeed, even on the "big" statements like "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and "Career Opportunities." "I Fought the Law" was a brilliant choice for a cover -- perfect.

I found Colin's comments above to be quite interesting. I would agree that the Clash always took themselves as seriously as any prog-rockers and were way too self-important. And no more so than on this first album -- only on "Clash City Rockers" does the group sound like it's actually having fun. I guess they felt like they had to be crusaders. But all the juvenile antics, anti-everything anger and ranting turned out to be just tilting at windmills. There's only two ways to go form there -- nihilism and self-destruction (the Sex Pistols) or expanding horizons. The Clash chose the latter, fortunately for us, since we got more and better music from them after this.

<> (27.05.2003)

I got the UK version of this album. And while it flows a bit better it does not have "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" which is easily 1 of the top 10 Clash songs. "HA! You think it's funny, turning rebellion into money?"

Jay Banerjee <> (10.10.2005)

George, why do you hate punk rock?

I mean, it's one thing to not like punk rock, it's another thing to hate it passionately.  And you definitely fall into the latter category, we can adduce pretty much your entire corpus of musical criticism to show that.  From your introduction to Quadrophenia ("Art-rock at its best. If you don't like it, stick to the Sex Pistols.") to your praise of an obscure 1977-era Kinks B-side called "Prince of the Punks": "If I were ever to completely explain why this genre offends me, I couldn't have done it better than this song does".  Not that punk offends you like it offends suburban mothers, but that it offends you like it offended prog-rockers who suddenly found their careers down the tubes because of a bunch of kids picking up guitars and bashing away with abandon.  You know, a real insult to "true musicianship". 

Stranger still, and more revealing, is your introduction to The Jam's awful sophomore effort This Is the Modern World, where you describe it as "more punk" than their brilliant debut, In the City.  The trouble is, it is less punk in every conceivable way!  The songs are slower, there's a comparative lack of energy, aggression, and youthful anthemics, and they even mix it up with a few introspective pop numbers here.  However, it is uncontestable that it is worse than the debut.  And therein lies the solution: so firmly ingrained is your anti-punk bias that, to you, "punk" is synonymous with "bad", so if a record is slower and more diverse and whatnot but is worse than its predecessor, you'll still call it "more punk".  And that's the problem.  If you're listening to an "unequivocally" punk record, and you firmly associate "punk" with "bad", then you're going to hate it no matter how good it is!  I realize this has some chicken-and-egg implications: what came first, your exposure to punk rock or your twisted definition?  But let's move on.

There's a weird disconnect between punk's earliest progenitors—The Stones and The Who, Class A favorites of yours—and the next step, the early proto-punkers the MC5 and the New York Dolls, both Class E.  And it pretty much just degenerates even further from there. Sure, The Ramones are Class B, but you and I both know that even though they (lords, gods, all hail, etc.) started it all, it is the British who gave punk rock its identity: The Jam, The Clash, The Damned, The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, and lesser lights.

I guess my point is you seem to have a deep-set agenda against punk rock and anything with any trace or vestige of punk rock.  Look, if you want to hate the Sex Pistols, go ahead.  They had some great songs ("God Save the Queen", "Problems", "Anarchy in the UK", etc.), but they were theater first, music second.  But for The Clash, music was number one. 

All bands have moments, and the Clash moment dearest to my heart is when they introduced melody to the world of punk rock on the coda of the first track on the UK debut, "Janie Jones": "oh, oh, oh, let them knoooow, let them knoooooooow!"  They proved then and there for all the world to behold that they weren't The Sex Pistols, they were musicians, fucking great musicians.  Yes, its impact is diluted on the US version, since it now appears somewhere in the middle of the album, but I'm still surprised that "Janie Jones" completely escaped mention.  And what about "White Man in Hammersmith Palais"?  That's got it all—harmonica, woodblocks, some tasty guitar, apocalyptic wails, vocal harmonies, skanking rhythm, brilliant lyrics, what the fuck more do you want?  What about the closer, the touching singalong "Garageland".  How can you resist the "oh-oh-oh" backings in the chorus? Is it just the lyrics you don't like?  I mean, it's aggressive, it's melodic, it would seem to be a perfect fit, right?  Well, wrong.  I'm genuinely flummoxed as to why someone of your background can't appreciate the Clash's debut, especially the US version.  There's a few weak songs, sure: I have always hated "What's My Name"; "Hate and War" has some good ideas but isn't as impressive as the other tracks here.  But by and large, the whole record is a rockin' singalong masterpiece, and so what if they're pissed off?  I guess I can't change your tastes, but maybe I can change the way you approach the record: pretend you've never heard of punk rock and you're listening to The Clash for the first time and have no idea what it is.  That's impossible, I realize, but try, OK?

(P.S. Mick Jones is the one singing "Who needs remote control?", not Joe Strummer.  Can't you tell them apart?)


Rich Bunnell <> (12.10.2000)

I dunno about this one - my problem is not that it's slowed down, it's more that the riffs and melodies simply aren't as good as those on the debut. "Safe European Home," "Tommy Gun," "Julie's In The Drug Squad" and "Stay Free" are all awesome songs, of course, all of which meld classic Clash songwriting with shinier production values, and none of the songs are bad at all, but generally it's kind of a monotonous album. And I know it's the most obvious thing that anybody could say, but the band rips off "I Can't Explain" AGAIN even more obviously than before in "Guns On The Roof"(at least last time there was a bit of a difference in the riff, but this time it's THE EXACT SAME THING) and this time they haven't really written a memorable melody around it. Still, the album is generally mostly enjoyable -- how's bout a seven here.

Ben Greenstein <> (18.10.2000)

Hmmmm..... Well, yes, a major problem with this one IS the lack of energy, but not so much as the lack of melodies! Half of the songs are recycled from the first album, and the other half aren't half as interesting as the filler on the band's other albums. "Safe European Home" is a great song, though. Some of the others aren't bad, either. But this is NOT a very strong album. I could give this a 5/10 (sorry).

Jeff Blehar <> (25.10.2000)

Ah, the problem with Give 'Em Enough Rope, George, is not that they've slowed themselves down or hired Sandy Pearlman, it's that a) as others have pointed out, the riffs are a lot less interesting, and b) this album is SLUDGY. That's what I think people mean when they talk about how "heavy" the record is, but there's a difference; "Safe European Home" is as heavy as anything they've ever done, and it rocks balls to the wall, but it's CLEAR.If you're going to get heavy, you need to make your sound a little less chaotic than a regular punk record, or else everything's just going to get lost in a quagmire of metallic riffing (The Clash avoided this problem by being so thin and trebly), and that's exactly what happens on songs like "Guns On The Roof," "Drug-Stabbing Time," and "Cheapskates."  Not only are they quite "by-the-numbers" songs, but they're obscured in a dense, impenetrable thicket of noise.  It's sludge.

That aside, most of the songs are musically lean. As we'll all agree, The Clash's strength is not in melodies, it's in energy, and most of this album substitutes volume and heaviness for energy. "Energy" certainly doesn't have to mean "speed;" it's one of those slightly intangible somethings that comes across in songs like "Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad" which is a mid-tempo cross between music hall and reggae. "Safe European Home" and "Tommy Gun" also have the Clash energy (the latter complete with some great tossed-off lines about self-aggrandizing terrorists), as does Jones' Mott The Hoople tribute "Stay Free." But most of the rest of this album is just a soggy, limp mess. If anything, Give 'Em Enough Rope is one more piece of evidence that the success or failure of punk is always predicated more on the spirit of the performers than in the music itself.  A boring 6/10.

Mihajlo Lalic <> (03.06.2002)

I hated this album for a long time, mostly because of the limp production and riffs devoid of any energy. And what happened? One day I substituted my worn out tape with the remastered CD, and man! was I surprised. The music is both energetic and creative, it's just that I couldn't hear it when listening to the lousy tape copy! Each of the musicians is fantastic - the guitar parts are much more developed than on the first LP, the bass is superb (the bass lines + the production make this Paul's finest performance with the Clash), and the drums are now taken care of by Topper Headon, who wasn't present for most of the first album, and who is a genius. All of the songs are great (except for the utterly stupid "Guns on the Roof"), and Strummer's lyrics (Mick Jones only wrote "Stay Free", and that's him on the vocals, too) are much more intelligent and less obvious than before, and there are even SAD songs ("Last Gang in Town", "Stay Free", "English Civil War"). Well, I guess my o! pinion on this album (or anything Clash) should not be trusted - what with my universe revolving around the Clash and so on - but I'd give it a 9 out of 10, and you people can give it a 3. But I hope you won't.


Anthony Stewart <> (30.05.2002)

Excuse me, where do you see Filler material here? This is one of the greatest Rockdiscs ever recorded. Since it's a Double it's extra special. Puts it in a class with the untouchables such as "Exile" and the "White Album". There is not one weak song on this disc from a band that found maturity and songwriting skills at a very early stage in their career. The Horns are fabulous throughout. Mick Jones plays just amazing guitarlicks on the whole disc. "London Calling" starts it off on a powerful note, right into the Rockabilly of "Brand New Cadillac". I saw the Clash doing "Jimmy Jazz" Live and Joe Strummer was sprawled on the drumriser smoking a fag and slurring the jazzy tinged vocals into the mike. "Hateful" with it's robust rhythm and the hilarious "Rudy Can't Fail" close out Side 1. The absolutely beatiful "Spanish Bombs" opens Side 2 with it's minor chord phrasing, followed by the very clever "The Right Profile". Who would ever think to write a song about Montgomery Clift's profile? "Lost In The Supermarket" is the lowkey popsong of the disc. Word has it that Strummer wrote it but thought it too wimpy, so Jones sang it. The vocals on the whole disc are outstanding. Jones and Simonon are right up there with Strummer. Jones might have a thinner voice than Strummer but he has character. The lyrics are also fabulous. Very quickwitted. "Working For The Clampdown" is a real Strummer workout. It is the Clash being the Clash. One of the absolute highlights of the disc closes out Side 2: "Guns Of Brixton" by Paul Simonon. truly threatening. remember the Clash were the real article. Especially Simonon and Topper Headon. "Wrong 'Em boyo" carries on on a lighter note with a lot of horns and Vocals in the vein of Fats Domino. "Koka Kola" and another short Rocker set the stage for the absolute highlight of the disc. "The Card Cheat". Orchestrated, dramatic lyrics about the lot of the man caught holding the 5th Ace. Mick Jones sings it. What is left? The naughty and delicious "Lover's Rock" set to reggae beats, "The Four Horsemen" a typical Clash anthem, "Revolution Rock" which was supposed to close the disc, also with a touch from the Islands, "I'm Not Down" and of course the uncredited "Train In Vain" which became the biggest hit of the disc. All in all a very sophisticated disc from four wild politico Punkers. Also many surprisingly funny and lighthearted songs. A very cohesive piece of art. The Clash would never rise that high again.


Bob Josef <> (11.12.2002)

The White Album of the punk/New Wave era. Certainly not quite as diverse or far-reaching. At the same time, though, it's far more cohesive, showing the Clash as a far more unified band than the Beatles at that point. An amazing jump from the first two albums. Some people at the time said "sellout", but the Clash were smart enough to know that punk was a musical dead end. They were smart to expand their sound I also find a bit of filler (the reggae tunes, "Jimmy Jazz" and "Brand New Cadillac" don't do it for me), and they still can't resist posturing (positioning themselves as the "Four Horsemen" of some sort of musical apocalypse is pretty silly, but that's a fun tune). But the majority of the album is compelling listening, by far the band's best record.

Steve Potocin <> (14.12.2002)

I always thought this was a little overrated. The title track was good, as was 'Spanish Bombs' and 'Lost In The Supermarket'. 'Rudy Don't Fail', Whats up with all these ska tunes with the name Rudy in them? Like it though. Best Tune? Hands down 'Hateful', now that is a smokin tune! Oh yeah, 'Train In Vain' is on here too.Hmmmm, maybe this is not overrated. Yeah it is.Good, but not great.

Kiel Pidgeon <> (31.12.2002)

Filler? There may be songs on sides 3 and 4 you don't like as much as sides 1 and 2, but there is no filler. 19 brilliant songs, and one hell of a cover make this a masterpiece. How you can think of 'Clampdown' as filler is beyond me.

Glenn Wiener <> (08.01.2003)

Whereas I admit that this is a good recording which features many interesting arrangements, I do not feel this is the classic piece of work that everyone raves about. Joey Strummers voice is indeed quite grating. His voice is appropriate on a few tracks particularly 'London Calling' and 'Jimmy Jazz'. However, on other tracks he should have been content just to led his guitar playing and let Mick Jones sing.

Anyway, about half the songs are good on this puppy with 'The Card Cheat', 'Rudie Can't Fail', 'Train In Vain', and the two previously mentioned tunes as the main highlights. Good yes, great not quite.

BILL SLOCUM <> (26.11.2003)

Filler? Really? Where?

There are great songs and just good ones on London Calling, but no filler, if filler is defined as "by-the-number-formula-coasting." The Clash were putting everything they had on the line with this, and it kicked butt like nothing that had come before. This is a breakthrough album, not for the Clash so much (though it was their entre to the pop charts in the US, courtesy of the blissful power-pop anthem "Train In Vain") but for the best the '80s would offer. Released in the last month of the 1970s, it was the blueprint for much of the greatest musical moments of the 80s, the New Wave sound from the UK, the arrival of U2, even college rock, though I'm not one to champion REM and Green Day, and won't try.

I just think as a double album, it's the best thing anyone ever did. That includes great rock and soul moments like The White Album, Exile On Main St. and Songs In The Key Of Life, all of which are great from beginning to end.

I don't even like punk especially, but how do you deny the charm, the power, the spirit of inventiveness coursing through each one of these pearls? "Rudy Can't Fail" is great enough on its own punk terms, then it goes into this gorgeous middle eight that sends it into Pet Sounds territory. Elsewhere, they take on Coca-Cola, revolutionary poseurs, consumer culture, and the legacy of Montgomery Clift and the Spanish Civil War, each in a way that's toe-tappingly listenable and warmly human at the same time. The production is fantastic throughout, energetic and varied. The lyrics are every bit as vital as the music, too. When does that ever happen with one song in even a good rock album, let alone 19 in a row?

I can't quibble with your take on the high points, George. Your analysis of great songs like the title track and "Guns of Brixton" is well said, and the first half is better than the second, like you say. But the second half is great! I can't see how you, even as a fearless champion of the underdog, could rate the filler-choked Sandinista more highly than London Calling. This was the pinnacle for the Clash, and maybe for the decade they helped define. They could only burn out after this, but what an awesome apogee.

Adrian Subrt <> (09.07.2004)


On the steps of the Academy. Socrates is about to travel to the Athenian courts to defend himself against the charge of impiety. A man approaches, humming the tune 'Lost In The Supermarket'.

MAN: "... I can no longer shop happily!"

SOCRATES: Hello there. I seem to remember that tune from my punk days. Will you remind me of the particular album it appears on?

MAN: Oh my ignorant Socrates, it's from the Clash's London Calling.

SOCRATES: Of course! The whole album floods back to me now. What is your name?

MAN: Georgiy Sergeyevich Starostin, but you may call me George.

SOCRATES: Ah my dear friend George, what are your thoughts of that particular work of art?

GEORGE: Oh, it's a step up from their earlier work, but I find the second half to be rather weak, especially 'Koka Kola' and 'The Card Cheat'.

SOCRATES: Oh really? May I be your pupil while you guide me through your opinion?

GEORGE: Surely, wise old sage.

SOCRATES: What is your problem with the second half?

GEORGE: The aforementioned songs, plus some additional ones strike me as simply keeping a place on the album.

SOCRATES: So you believe that they are "filler"?

GEORGE: Indeed

SOCRATES: I need a true understanding of "filler" now. What is the thing constant in all "filler" that makes "filler" "filler"?

GEORGE: I suppose a lack of artistic investment.

SOCRATES: Ah, we have a wise one! But answer me a question.

GEORGE: Surely, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Have not some works of music in the past been made with little effort but produced stunning results?

GEORGE: Of course, 'Louie Louie' by the Kingsman, for example.

SOCRATES: So that definition is no good.

GEORGE: I suppose.

SOCRATES: It is surely a conundrum, this "filler" you speak of.

GEORGE: Yes, but may I propose an alternative definition?

SOCRATES: Go right ahead.

GEORGE: A track that feels insignificant to the overall artistic statement of the album.

SOCRATES: Tell me, have you ever, upon repeated listenings, stumbled on a small gem within the confines of a monstrous piece of work?

GEORGE: Yes, during my days of psychedelic fascination, I repeatedly treated the title track of Crown Of Creation by Jefferson Airplane as a weak link in the midst of the work.

SOCRATES: Similar things occur to me in my musical listenings weekly.

GEORGE: Yes, and I soon realized the masterpiece that 'Crown Of Creation' really is. Ah, Socrates, must you take my definition and trash it again?

SOCRATES: I am only searching for the truth.

GEORGE: I suppose it is a song that just bores the listener.

SOCRATES: As you bore me now?

GEORGE: Do not push me, impious man.

SOCRATES: I am sorry, but do you find cocaine in major corporations and the history of Britain boring?

GEORGE: How could I?

SOCRATES: And also, do you find well-made, energetic, melodious music dull?

GEORGE: No, I have an archive of reviews proving that wrong.

SOCRATES: So with this fact, what reason do you give for so strongly disliking 'Koka Kola' and 'The Card Cheat', which thus lowers your overall feelings towards the album?

GEORGE: I am quite simply tounge-tied Socrates.

SOCRATES: If a combination of these strong interests of yours do not interest you, I suppose the definition of "filler" is unfound by us.

GEORGE: Perhaps there is no such thing as "filler".

SOCRATES: Which would make your argument against the second half of London Calling quite feeble.

GEORGE: Indeed, I must now raise the overall rating to its just fourteen out of fifteen.

SOCRATES: That would certainly be just for the entire polis.

GEORGE: I bid you adieu, and I hope to get back to you sometime about the form of "filler". Please check my web site for the next update when I change the rating of this album to fourteen.

SOCRATES: Only if I survive the accusations of Athens.

GEORGE: I hope so.

SOCRATES: Farewell.

GEORGE: Godspeed.

Matt(the great)Byrd <> (13.07.2005)

This is why punk bands shouldn't always be totally ignored, because, sometimes (okay, from what I know, only once) they come up with something that is far more than just punk. The Clash embraced all kinds of music on this album, this showed all kinds of maturity. London Calling is pretty darn admirable. I'm not sure if I'd call any of the stuff filler, it's tough to put your finger on it, it's pretty subjective, I mean, there's not really universally hated stuff like 'Revolution 9' on here. Case in point, 'The Card Cheat', one of Geroge's 'blue songs' is my favorite track...... well, along with the title track, 'Lost in the Supermarket', and 'The Guns of Brixton'.


Kiel Pidgeon <> (17.04.2003)

Sure is an interesting argument you make for Sandinista! being better than London Calling. While they had a great thought, the 6 sides is just too much. You wonder what this album would sound like if you could trim it down by a dozen songs. They may have failed a little on the execution of their idea, it is still a damn fine idea. One that not many would have the balls to try. You are right though, it takes more than a few listens for everything to sink in. Once it all does you find it is well worth the time.

<> (27.04.2003)

Sandanista! is a self-induldged boring mess. Half of London Calling is filler, but the other half is far superior to anything on Sandanista!

Evan Williams <> (23.05.2003)

Hi George, the reason Sandanista is a triple album is that the were under contract to CBS to do X amount of sides , wanted to get out of said contract so they thought the quickest way out was to put out double , triple albums to satisy the contractual obligation - 2 albums - 10 sides!

Bob Josef <> (15.10.2003)

Now, George, I know you don't like me going on and on about producers, but this is one place where one would have definitely have come in handy. According to Strummer, when they heard that Springsteen was putting out a double album (The River), they felt they just had to outdo him. Unfortunately, since they produced this monster themselves, they allowed their collective ego to go totally out of control.

However, Springsteen at least had enough actual songs (whether they were all good, of course, is another matter) to fill up his album, this thing is just too cluttered with self-indulgent experiments that really didn't deserve release. I only find about a LP's worth of material ranking with London Calling. I actually did put most of your highlighted choices on my mix tape, although I left out "Charlie Don't Surf" and "Version City" in favor of "Rebel Waltz" and "Washington Bullets." These two put their political diatribes in contrasting ethnic musical settings to very interesting effect. I think I'm about the only one who likes the kiddy version of "Career Opportunities." A throwaway at first hearing, it makes the point of the song more subtly -- and in the end, more devastatingly -- than the in-your-face original -- you're totally screwed before you're even out of nursery school! Cheerful.

If the record had come out as a focused single record, I might agree with your assessment of it as the best Clash album. As it is, it's just a giant mess. You can't even get the best songs anthologized properly -- Clash of Broadway has only about half of your highlighted selections. I don't think anybody could agree totally on what the best tracks would be, anyway, since there's so much to love AND hate here.

Bill Slocum <> (23.06.2004)

London Calling...This is your brain

Sandinista!...This is your brain on drugs

David Dickson <> (31.07.2006)

What the hell? Am I the only one to actually AGREE with you on this album??? FIRE and tarnation!

I have a confession to make. I used to think the Clash's UK version of their debut was FAAAAAAN-tastic because it sounded marginally better than the Ramones. Then I got pissed at you for disliking the US version and posted something, in retrospect, rather rude on Mark Prindle's website under his The Clash [UK] review in response to your comment. Naturally, then I mixed Bochkaryov and Flagman and. . . well, to make a long story short, pivo byez vodki--umniy amerikanets. Dehvid Dikson--ne umniy amerikanets. DUH.

Well. As predicted, most of the "classic Clash" stuff just leaves me cold, (including, at long last, that infernal debut of bad international relations) but my God in Heaven does this NOT. "Uncohesive" they say? "Self-indulgent," they contemplate?? Nyet, ya answerayoo! This is about the best use of 144 minutes of the Clash's time possible. Rather than get all "energetic" on us, "political" on our coxises, or "waxing lyrical" on our gluteus maximi, they concentrate on texture, art, production clarity, bombast, and they FINALLY at LONG LAST REALIZE that they are NO GOOD at writing catchy hooky poptunes of good ole-fashioned rocky roots toots boots. They compensate for that with eclectic mind-blowing-ness to down a bull elephant. Whereas London Calling sounded less like a White Album and more like just a really good New Wave album with different shades and arrangements, here the Clash compose the Sgt. Pepper/We're Only in it For the Money of the early '80's, interspersed with the sprawl and epic feel of the White Album with nearly twice the length. Clearly, these blokes were paying close attention to Public Image Ltd.'s work of the same era (although I must confess, Johnny Rotten IS even better than them at this kind of stuff).

And it really flows well, too! Each "LP" has a clear beginning and ending song, as does, incredibly, each "CD" in the modern pressing. And to my IMMENSE surprise, much-maligned "Shepherd's Delight" is the PERFECT ending to this triple-shot wad-blow of ambition--kind of a "credits-rolling" spacey "re-working" of a reggae riff for a minute or two, followed by a long, drawn-out dramatic howl of bombastic "conclusion ambience." Now THAT'S what I call cohesion. AND creativity. AND coolness. AND drugs.

Damn. To tell the truth, most of the mediocre songs seem to be concentrated on the first LP, and there IS a dearth of pure hooks to be found over the course of these two and a half hours, but jeez--what Clash album DOESN'T have that problem? I'm not sure whether to give this a 9 or a 10 out of 10, but no question, it IS the Clash's best work, and at long last, proof that they're one of the goddamn coolest bands of their era. At the very least, they created the quintessential British "experimental rock" album of the '80's. London Calling's a fine LP, don't get me wrong, but this. . . NO ONE else would even WANT to emulate. It's too high a peak to climb.


Eric B. <> (07.10.2003)

strangely enough, this is my favorite clash album as of now. i don't have sandinista yet, and i have a feeling i'm going to like it (it's in the mail) i like this album because of it's diversity. i mean, there's punk, an ac/dc parody/rip off, a jazzy piano led pop song, a talking head's type rocker, regaee, and funk and that's just the first six songs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i love london calling but i sometimes just get lost in it's *sprawl* (god help me when i get sandinista!). we'll see.

the first two clash albums are actually the two best punk albums i've heard of that period. PURE punk i mean. the ramones are in a different league of music, and the sex pistols are horrible. plus i could really give a crap about the thousands of bands that started doing punk and ended doing punk for the rest of their career. *vomit*

the clash aren't really punk though, and that's important to remember. i'm fairly certain is was mick jones who pushed them towards weirder stuff in their career. they got pretty arty late in their career.

BILL SLOCUM <> (26.11.2003)

The only good thing about this over Sandinista! is that there's just that much less overall to deal with. This has three or four good songs, in my opinion so does Sandinista! What's remarkable is how brilliant three of those songs (naming them is an exercise in the obvious but I will do so anyway, "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" "Rock The Casbah" and maybe the best track for repeated listens, "Straight To Hell") are when you pause and consider just how execrable the rest is. The falloff is drastic and perplexing. Even the most ganja-addled bands of yore had their self-editing bullshit detectors set higher than this.

"Know Your Rights" bursts forth with the celebrated Clash gumption, though as you point out, George, none of the subtlety of vintage Clash (and they could still be subtle even in their in-your-face-Marxist-agitator style). It's punk, and that's how they started, so its a nice nod in that direction. "Car Jamming" wouldn't sound too out-of-place on London Calling, it is the fourth best track on the album, and a good tone-setter even if it doesn't hold up to repeat listens either.

Otherwise, this is another stylistic exploration with some okay moments (like the Travis Bickle cameo on "Red Angel Dragnet") amid much dreck (the rest of "Red Angel Dragnet" and 95% of the album's second half, especially that long Ginsberg recitation or whatever the hell it was supposed to be.) "Overpowered By Funk" is the sort of funk/disco experiment that the Clash shone on in other days, but here they seem unsteady and weak.

The Clash were original, brilliant, and fearless. Here that last virtue turns and bites them on the ass. It's still worth having as their last proud gasp, and in some ways, the best demonstration of just how good they were even when they weren't firing on all gaskets.

Bob Josef <> (07.03.2006)

Actually, this was going to be yet another double album! But the record company wasn't having any of that after the sales fiasco of the last one. However, they sure did manage to cram a lot of experimentation into this one anyway. A lot of people called this their "sellout" record because it managed to generate two hit singles, but I don't think "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" and "Rock the Casbah" are all that far removed from "Police On My Back" and "The Magnificent Seven", respectively. However, like the last album, not everything works. I pretty much enjoy everything up through "Atom Tan". I even like the very bizarre "Red Angel Dragnet", with that peculiar Paul Simonon lead vocal and strange, offbeat rhythm. "Straight to Hell" goes on a bit too long (and there's an even longer, unedited version on the boxset), but the lyrics are really interesting. The album does take a major downturn after "Atom Tan". "Inoculated City" is bouncy enough, but what the hell are these lyrics about -- some sort of antiwar diatribe? The album's lyrics are fairly haphazard, but whatever message they were trying to convey with this song is certainly undermined by Ellen Foley's (Mick's girlfriend) pointless parody of a toilet cleaner commercial. The other songs are draggy, pretentious and pointless. The people who bought the album for its two hits were probably befuddled by the rest of it, but it was nice to see them having big success, even if a lot of the experiments were failures.

It's too bad the group started having problems before the record even came out. I actually saw the group on this tour, with Terry Chimes back in, subbing for the fired Topper Headon. It was pretty clear that a lot of the album couldn't be duplicated live -- "Rock the Casbah" absolutely sucked live, and the limitations of the four man lineup (sometimes three, actually-- Strummer didn't play all of the time) was apparent, even if there was a fair amount of energy. Not surprising, in retrospect, that they didn't survive.


Kiel Pidgeon <> (24.04.2003)

A five? Hardly worthy of a five is this piece of shit. Suprised you even took the time to review it. Nothing that made the Clash great is present in even the smallest amounts. The only songs that worth hearing are 'This is England' and 'Three Card Trick'.

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