5 of 5 thought this review was well written
Streetcore is Joe Strummer’s final piece of music before his sudden and untimely heart failure on December 22, 2002, 4 years ago today, at the age of 50. But he could not have left on a better note. The former Clash front man marked his return to music in the late 90’s with his new band, The Mescaleros and with them toured constantly (where the phrase ‘streetcore’ is derived from) playing new material as well as Clash classics, and recorded 2 new albums, ‘Rock Art & the X-Ray Style’ (1999) and ‘Global A Go-Go’ (2001) with styles ranging from rock, punk, folk, reggae, electronica to world music. At the time of his death a third album was in the works but immediately halted. Almost one year after, in October of 2003, the final album of the Mescaleros was released on Hellcat Records.
Opening the booklet of the album, a picture of The Mescaleros’ recording studio is pictured, in it showing an array of instruments ranging from all kinds of guitars, bongo drums and keyboards all cluttered together. The picture almost captures the bands sound on their first two albums, but with Streetcore, the songs, for the most part, would be mainly guitar driven (which is far more accessible to the casual listener) with still however the appearance from the odd instrument. So toned down are the world music influences and turned up is the gritty, powerful rock n roll and simpler acoustic tunes. Coma Girl
, the album opener, is as straightforward as it gets; a steady paced rock and roll song combined by reggae elements with Strummer’s voice, despite being 50 years old, still has good as it was in ’79. Strummer, with the Clash and Mescaleros and even solo, has always been known for experimenting and having a diverse sound, and traces of all sorts of music are found here, though it is less complex then the previous two albums as previously mentioned. Get Down Moses
, one of Strummer’s finest songs in years, is a sing-a-long reggae tune while Arms Aloft
is an inspirational guitar driven rock song. Also included is the moving 9/11 tribute Ramshackle Day Parade
, the punk rock energy of All in a Day
and the laidback, mellow Burnin’ Streets
The biggest highlights of the album are the purely emotional ones, the songs that leave lasting impressions after you listen to them. The folk song Long Shadow
, which was written to Johnny Cash about his legacy but suits Joe’s as well, is just Joe and an acoustic guitar; simplicity used to its full potential. Joe’s take on Bob Marley’s classic Redemption Song
, produced by Rick Rubin (and originally a duet with Johnny Cash, found on his ‘unearthed’ boxed set), is easily the best on the album for me, simply because of the sheer emotion put into it. Due to the album not being able to be properly finished, the recording of Streetcore is exceptionally done by Rubin and The Mescaleros, however due to his early passing, not all songs could be finished and Midnight Jam
is a result of that. The entirely instrumental track possesses a soothing beat only interrupted by recorded audio clips of Joe which makes for a nice touch. The album comes to a close with the Neil Young cover Silver & Gold
, which is truly a sad, yet triumph filled song with lyrics like ‘And I got to hurry up before I grow too old’ complemented by the use of the harmonica. Streetcore is a fitting end to the legend’s musical career. And while Streetcore may not so much feel like an actual album as oppose to the other two releases, it is a collection of Joe’s final music and surprisingly flows well. Joe Strummer, always politically and socially aware, is credited with so many things, not only making one of the best albums of all time in London Calling with The Clash, but bringing integrity and meaning to the punk genre and showing that there were no boundaries, and his passion towards his music is astounding. A truly remarkable and emotional album, with lyrics of inspiration and wisdom, it is essential for diehard Clash, Mescaleros or Strummer fans. To me it’s a classic album and a suiting testament to Strummer's legacy.