The Clash
Sandinista!


2.0
poor

Review

by Matthijs van der Lee USER (219 Reviews)
December 13th, 2009 | 19 replies | 3,904 views


Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Frankly, it's a mess.

6 of 6 thought this review was well written

A Decade of Punk: The Clash in Six Chapters

An Account Dedicated to the Genius of Joe Strummer

Chapter IV: The Clash Get Sloppy

After massive success with their classic London Calling, one could certainly say The Clash had it going for them in 1979. A new decade was dawning, however, and it remained the question whether the excellent punk group could keep up their momentum in the 80’s. With their previous album, Strummer and the boys had learnt that they could successfully mix their traditional punk sound of their self-titled debut and follow-up Give ‘Em Enough Rope with a variety of new genres, such as jazz, reggae, pop and ska. For their upcoming album, they went even further in this. Because of London’s unanimously positive reception, it is quite assumable that the ambition of the once young British punks was growing ever stronger. By the looks and hears of 1980’s Sandinista!, it certainly did. The Clash created not a double album, but went as far to do a triple one, spanning 6 full vinyl sides at its day. Still, with a total of 36 tracks, one cannot help but wonder if it would all be equally consistent and effective.

According to the media, it was as good as it got. Sandinista! was almost universally hailed as a musical masterpiece, even more stunningly incorporating broad musical influences than its predecessor. The real truth about The Clash’s fourth though, is not as bright. With its massive length, it is very difficult to sit through in one go, and therefore all the more difficult to appreciate. If all material were up to the standards of London Calling, this would naturally be a forgivable fact. But unavoidably, quite some nooks and crannies are filled with uninteresting, unconvincing or even embarrassing moments. It got more experimental than ever before for the band, and that is what eventually becomes too much for the record’s own good.

Sandinista!’s experiments come in three forms. The first is where The Clash once again succeed, reaching almost-London Calling heights (indeed, almost, for no track here can truly match the one-time magic of that brilliance). The second is where the experiment is once again daring, but doesn’t turn out as well as one would like. These kind of songs unfortunately make for about half of the album. The third and last is, surprise surprise, where all goes wrong. Baseless repetition, useless overdubs, or completely failed attempts at genre fusion. It’s the kind of moments that make you wonder how on earth these blokes got that previous album so damn fantastic.

The first disc contains, by far, the greatest value in enjoyable material. In fact, as we progress to the second and third disc, the amount of worthwhile songs keeps shrinking and shrinking. The excellence is far from abundant, and in the end, the album is incredibly dragged down by its all-too-many filler tracks. A shame, because Sandinista! definitely succeeds at times. Opener The Magnificent Seven, an excellent flirt with rap supported by a groovy bass is a speaking example of this. And they keep it up for a while, indeed they do. Hitsville U.K. was also new for the band, and is an effective ballad between Jones and his then-girlfriend Ellen Foley (widely known for her work with Meat Loaf).

The smooth Junco Partner revisits the reggae incorporated in London Calling, and it’s not the only one. Reggae happens to be very prominent on Sandinista!, and contains many of its highlights, being One More Time (one of more collaborations with Mikey Dread, who also co-produced the album), Police On My Back, which works so well because it is the single track in The Clash’ repertoire that perfectly blends the genre with their original punky rock ‘n roll preference, and Charlie Don’t Surf, lyrically simple, but one of the forgiving moments on the third disc. The means of The Crooked Beat don’t quite make the mark, and are often repetitive or lack innovation.

Reggae is not the only genre revisited, however. Those who are familiar with Lost in the Supermarket will recognize the foothold it placed for the disco-esque grooves on Ivan Meets G.I. Joe (sung by Headon) and Washington Bullets, the latter being one of The Clash’s most directly political songs, and its equal influence on the more poppy Somebody Got Murdered. Look Here is a nicely upbeat jazz/rhythm and blues crossover, and one of the record’s most unique moments.

Soul and gospel were also new to the table, but didn’t quite yield magnificent masterpieces. When the band incorporates the genre, rather than practicing it fully, it turns out for the better, showcased by the soul-ish guitar work in The Call Up, opposed to the nearly straight-up Corner Soul. When you hear The Clash doing gospel on The Sound of Sinners though, you can’t be sure what to think of it. It doesn’t suit them all that well, but it does suit the experimental direction. Perhaps the real oddity is Lose This Skin, which is solely written, and almost solely performed by English singer-songwriter Tymon Dogg, who provides lead with vocals and violin, while the boys themselves seem a mere backing band. That said, it is actually one of the better songs Sandinista! features.

You see, that means it is even more of a shame of all that meaningless filler. Both The Magnificent Seven and This Is England are re-done backwards and overdubbed, in Lightning Strikes and Mensforth Hill respectively. The same counts for One More Dub, immediately following upon its original counterpart One More Time. It gets even worse on disc #3, where all kinds of spacey electronic effects form the backbone of their songs. There is, quite simply, no purpose for it at all. But perhaps the most embarrassing moments remain the addition of children singing: a girl doing part of Guns of Brixton at the end of Broadway, and a couple of kids almost fully covering Career Opportunities vocally. It’s truly a shameful appearance for the track.

That too many spaces are filled up with useless or average material, is just why Sandinista! falls flat as a whole album. There is enough excellent material to fill a full disc, so why make 3? Riddled by continuous growing ambition following their previous album or not, I sure as hell do not know what The Clash had in their minds when creating their fourth album. People will unavoidably miss out on the good material, because listening the whole thing simply is not worth it. At almost 2,5 hours (!), and with so much to get bored with, it is truly impossible to sit through Sandinista! Do yourself a favour: get the good tracks, but don’t get the whole thing. Please.

- Michael Geoffrey ‘Mick’ Jones ~ Guitars, Lead Vocals
- John Graham ‘Joe Strummer’ Mellor (R.I.P.) ~ Guitars, Backing Vocals
- Paul Gustave Simonon ~ Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
- Nicholas Bowen ‘Topper’ Headon ~ Drums, Backing Vocals


Essential listening:

The Magnificent Seven
Hitsville U.K.
Junco Partner
Somebody Got Murdered
One More Time
Police On My Back
The Call Up
Washington Bullets
Lose This Skin
Charlie Don’t Surf


TO BE CONTINUED...



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user ratings (375)
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3.6
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other reviews of this album
tom79 (3.5)
...

Joe Sullivan (4)
An Eclectic Experiment or a Cmplete Waste of Space?...


Comments:Add a Comment 
MassiveAttack
December 13th 2009



2688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It isn't a 2 in my mind, but this is poor quality since the inconsistency mares the album.

Nagrarok
December 13th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

This is impossible to sit through, hence the late continuation of the discography.

Nagrarok
December 13th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Well MassiveAttack, it's so damn inconsistent I had to give it a 2.

EVedder27
December 13th 2009



6088 Comments


very nice Nag. I need to get through the band's discography although I may be skipping this.

Roach
December 13th 2009



2149 Comments


yeah this really sucks

Nagrarok
December 13th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Just make sure you get those first three first Mike. They made quite some good songs in the 80's, but their albums just became so inconsistent.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
December 13th 2009



8318 Comments


good review as always. 2.5 hours is a length I myself couldn't probably stomach even if the material would be excellent.

LepreCon
December 13th 2009



3611 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yet another good review, Nag/ Burnsie, I wholeheartedly agree

Nagrarok
December 13th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Just keep it at Nag, Conor. I'll probably change my nickname again sometime. Thanks for the pos's. And yeah Styles, even if all be awesome 2.5 hours is just overdoing it. Luckily the next one is a single disc again. Such a relief that'll be...

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
December 13th 2009



8318 Comments


if you'd take out the ni from the title, there would be left a word Sandista! which would mean cripple in Estonian and by the looks of it, that's exactly what the album does. Is this a coincidence? I don't think so!

Nagrarok
December 13th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Haha, nice one. Now I know an Estonian word.

HolidayKirk
Contributing Reviewer
December 13th 2009



1594 Comments


Yeah, this album has its highlights for sure, but its another sad case of "Boy this would make a great single disc album" disease.

Douchebag
December 13th 2009



3624 Comments


Definitley agree with you here. I bought this album really cheap out of curiosity and I can't say i've sat through it all. Think I might listen to the rec'd songs.

MassiveAttack
December 13th 2009



2688 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

First post was just rapid reaction, but your review is excellent, well put.

kygermo
December 13th 2009



994 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Well done, sir. This is a very hard album to review, as well as wrap your head around. Me personally, I applauded them for the balls to release such a daring work. Vinyls 1 and 2 (or tracks 1-24) are for the most part pretty spectacular. But the rest goes to shit, and quickly. I just like the fact that the album has such different genres on it, anybody could find something to like. Just dont compare it to London Calling. POS.

Nagrarok
December 14th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

If they hadn't made London Calling, they would have never made the step to this, so it's impossible not to compare the two. Very similar approach.

tom79
December 14th 2009



3364 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This album contains some of their best and worst songs so I just don't listen to the bad ones and its a great album, and a double album at that. Pretty spot on with the essential listening, except I'd replace Lose This Skin and One More Time with Up in Heaven and The Street Parade.

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

Nagrarok
December 14th 2009



8169 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Yeah, Up in Heaven just didn't make it.

xxm
January 2nd 2014



197 Comments


I love double/triple albums but good review.



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