Review Summary: An excellent example of moving foward in style but still keeping up the good work.A Decade of Punk: The Clash in Six Chapters
An Account Dedicated to the Genius of Joe Strummer
Chapter II: The Clash Clean Things Up
1977 had been an excellent year for The Clash. With their debut album, which became an instant hit because of its strong sense of simple music appeal, and even more importantly, cultural identification, they created immediate interest in their work. The through-and-through Brits even managed to break through in the States, where their first album was the most imported record in years (because apparently, those sensitive
Americans didn’t think it was radio-friendly enough). Still, conflict ensued in the young formation, and Terry Chimes chose to leave. Eventually, he was replaced by Topper Headon, a winning move for the band, as their new drummer would later prove to be an invaluable asset.
But then, the Americans remained stubborn. They wanted a more mainstream record. At least, that was the opinion of the band’s record company. Thus, CBS put its share of pressure on the young punks, directing them to producer Sandy Pearlman, who had earned a name by producing the majority of The Blue Öyster Cult
’s work. Pearlman had been used to a cleaner sound all this time, and that most certainly had an influence on the sound of The Clash’s second album: Give ‘Em Enough Rope
The attitude of Strummer, Jones & Co. remained the same, but it cannot be denied the rather different production took away part of the punky essence of what The Clash was all about. Of course, this is all their record company wanted, but the band sound just a little too clean on Give ‘Em Enough Rope
, certainly too clean to make a completely convincing punk album. Still, the album shows than even with the least exciting of productions, The Clash could not be tamed.
The boys do
take more time on the tracks, however. Where their debut was mostly angry punk with a short, clear message, and most of its tracks didn’t even make the 3-minute mark, Give ‘Em
takes more time to elaborate on things. Strummer and Jones, who together wrote basically all of the album’s material, go for more structure, and that has its benefits as well as its letdowns, especially if you loved the more hardcore debut. Despite that we will not encounter any classics in the vein of White Riot
, the step that the band took with their second record is a logical evolution. With less chaos, there had been made room for more sophisticated writing (such as the clever use of piano in Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad
and saxophone in Drug-Stabbing Time
). Not only Jones and Strummer, who had been taking all the attention for themselves before, as it seemed, got something out of this. Headon, a noticeable addition to the front, has impeccable rhythm and timing, and Simonon made his presence clear for the first time, especially with the protruding bass line in Last Gang in Town
Thematically, the band has changed as well, or at least so partially. They still used their trademark contemporary subjects, but have moved from the British working man to war, terrorism and crime, other excellent topics to deliver critique upon as punk act. Titles such as the sarcasm-packed Safe European Home
and effectively funny Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad
should not leave all that much to the imagination. Where the album moves away for a single track to the more personal-themed song Stay Free
, it is unsurprisingly Jones taking up lead vocals, who’s far more poppy in the voice, and created a worthy contribution.
All ten tracks on the album are enjoyable in their own right, and result in something that can count as one of The Clash’s more consistent works (read: their first three albums). Give ‘Em Enough Rope
was perhaps the exact right progression for The Clash, where they matured in song writing and learned that however effective angry, short punk songs were, there was much to get out of a different approach. This would foreshadow the eventual step to London Calling
, an album where The Clash truly redefined the essence of the entire punk genre, and showed that its possibilities were far broader than anyone previously would have thought.
- Michael Geoffrey ‘Mick’ Jones ~ Guitars, Vocals
- John Graham ‘Joe Strummer’ Mellor (R.I.P.) ~ Guitars, Vocals
- Paul Gustave Simonon ~ Bass Guitar
- Nicholas Bowen ‘Topper’ Headon ~ Drums
Safe European Home
Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad
Guns on the Roof
TO BE CONTINUED...