The Clash
Give 'Em Enough Rope



by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
November 22nd, 2009 | 13 replies

Release Date: 1978 | Tracklist

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

Essential listening:

Safe European Home
Tommy Gun
Julie’s Been Working For the Drug Squad
Guns on the Roof


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user ratings (472)
other reviews of this album
tom79 (4)
Musicially similar to their debut, Give em Enough Rope is a solid punk record with a number of the b...

Strummerville (3.5)

Comments:Add a Comment 
November 22nd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Number 75. Ah, The Clash' first three albums are so great.

November 22nd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

English Civil War and Tommy Gun are probably my favourite Clash songs, especially to play on guitar as well as the cover of 'Brand New Cadilac"

Awesome review, love these guys.

November 22nd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, Brand New Cadillac is fantastic.

November 22nd 2009


there's a lot of better punk out there than the clash but they were still p awes

November 22nd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

I'll be interested to see what you think of Sandista...

November 22nd 2009


Ahh us stubborn Americans. Great as always.

Staff Reviewer
November 22nd 2009


I've never listened to a Clash album all the way through.

This is a nice review.

November 22nd 2009


My God, you're a reviewing beast. I'm lucky if I get one out a week, let alone in successive days. Again excellent review and again I'm going to comment on how much I like this 6 part structure.

November 23rd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Well, after London Calling it'll probably take me a little longer since I know the first three best. If I can I'll finish one a day though.

November 23rd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

The production on this kinda makes it sound hard rock at times but yeah good review

November 23rd 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

Good review, I need this

March 13th 2013


Didn't know you'd reviewed The Clash, nice work.

April 8th 2014


Album Rating: 4.0

This is their last punk album I reckon, the debut is a classic for me and though London Calling is a masterpiece in its genre, it can't compete with the first two releases

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