While not exactly at the peak of their careers, The Clash were still kickin’ it in the early 80’s. Their first appearance hurled them directly into the British punk scene with an arsenal of great material to start them off, and armed to the teeth with one hell of a lineup that would soon become one of the best punk lineups to ever hit the genre. Joe Strummer led every song into victory with the pride of his country engulfed in his vocals. Paul Simonon thumped away at every measure like it was the band’s last. Mick Jones inserted the soul into every riff and every solo that ever struck the band’s songs. And Topper Headon, with almost god-like powers, led the way for a lot of rhythmic portions of the band’s large archive of compositions, and some say is Sir John Bonham’s punk equivalent.
The band flourished into the industry with their self titled debut, and possibly their greatest work. This is was in ‘77, as then ‘78 brought us their second album, titled “Give ‘Em Enough Rope." Then, in 79, they released the album that is certainly responsible for the formation of many bands after The Clash themselves. The release of London Calling marked the real birth of The Clash to most people, but to others, it was just them at their peak, and it paid off. While stepping into the new decade, the world then heard from the band yet again with the double album; Sandinista!. As it clearly didn’t follow up well to London Calling, it managed to get them a bit further and a bit deeper into the core, or heart of their own work.
Two long years go by, and then,’82 brings us the resurrection of The Clash. Combat Rock was the name of the new album, and just like many bands before them, this was something that continued their glorious legacy, but brought something new upon the table as well. Bottom line is, this album is funky as hell. No denying it. While Strummer?s slurs and Simonon’s lines make clear that The Clash is still jamming, you can’t help but notice other influences stuck into this mix that most likely expanded off of Revolution Rock and Guns Of Brixton. It can’t exactly be called the ‘different’ album, but certainly the most their album that stands out the most for their own standards. The reasons to listen to this album are plainly easy to describe. It’s a funky, it’s classic. Hell, it’s The Clash.
The Clash- Combat Rock
“This is a public service announcement! With Guitars!" Joe unleashes the album straight your way with clearly the very best track an album like this could have started out with. Know Your Rights
holds in place a hoppy, steady bass-line as Joe executes in his formal vocals and Mick and Topper duke it out with a great midway solo in the bridge, and a nice sturdy beat going nice and tight on the hats as the song progresses pretty slowly. Now, everything in this track isn’t perfect. This is the only track on the album that carries on so much that after it’s over, you will clearly remember everyone’s riffs and rhythms. I will say once again that it is the best opening track for a more different album like Combat Rock and shows the likes of what will come up momentarily.
As the first track fades out, Car Jamming
starts off with Topper and Mick leading the way with a great repeating tom-fill and a swirlier riff to put it in a certain way. Joe does a great job with his own guitar-work in this one; in the intro, as well as the bridge. Paul comes in here at backing vocals in choruses and such, while you can realize that Topper is still in the gloomy background combating each and every measure with the same fill. What really keeps this one going is Paul’s bass, and keeps the rest powered to give us the play-by-play of what will go no for the remainder of the track. Fades out with the slow, yet energized chorus that will burn in your head for some time until a song like the one coming up will burn it right out.
My, my. While I don’t have anything ‘excellent’ to say about this next track, I will admit that it’s not a bad song. Should I Stay Or Should I Go
will strike a sudden resemblance to about 20 commercials and probably 5 movies you’ve seen or heard before. Why? Because in my standard’s and I’m sure a lot of other people’s, it ranks in as the poppiest Clash song ever written and produced. Mick’s repetitive riff gets boring and starts getting on your nerves after a few listens, but the real thing to admire here are the vocals, including all the rants and chants in the background. While I’m still not sure if it’s the rest of the boys, or guests, the backup vocals make the song not that bad, but Im being truly honest when I say that this is a huge halt for the real mood of the album, and just didn’t belong on here.
Right back on track, right back on the track. The albums brings us upon another of the band’s greatest hits next, and fits the album right back in place. Rock The Casbah
is one of the funkiest tracks on the album, and certainly means Simonon providing a wide variety of riffs that will stick to the composition and doesn’t let go. Topper as well, does a great job with fills in the bridge, as Joe lets us have some of his great lyrics, and then jumps right back into a combo of accents on the snare, and shuffles and splashes. This is truly an excellent song from beginning to end, and if not the definite song to know The Clash by, then definitely among one of their greatest work in their history.
Paul starts preaching and going on about something in the sky as Topper’s best possible track on the album starts off. Red Angel Dragnet
has none particular singing, but a lot of talking and conversation going on between Paul and I’m not sure if it’s another guest or Mick in a really, really deep voice. Like I said, this is drummer Topper Headon’s very best work on the album, and it shows as he executes at cue of Paul’s riff. Not stopping at one measure, he slides across his cymbals so gracefully, making it look easy to follow Paul’s line with varieties of notes to match on his bass-drum and toms. Keeps the album going at nice progress, and in no sign of it stopping. Not to worry, as it is just getting warmed up.
Straight To Hell
is the opera of the album. While this is certainly giving away the score of the song too early, I will say that this song is excellent, and also ranks in as one of my favorites from the band. Ranking in at almost seven minutes, the speed in this one is slightly altered so it can easily follow the excellent work done by Joe and Topper here. Joe puts on different amounts of accents and voices to fill in, but at the end, manages to reach the listener with the message that was meant to belong. The background orchestra is clearly led by Topper as he goes at his toms like there will be no tomorrow, and although the speed isn’t shocking, the grace in the man’s fingertips explains why he belongs as one of the best drummers to ever hit the industry. From beginning to end, nothing but pure bliss and subtle excellence. Occasionally the track with the most heart, and probably best lyrics as well. Nothing short of the band at their very best.
To act as the sudden catalyst, Atom Tan
speeds up the mix once again, and while sporting the sound of a more classic Clash track, it keeps the funkier line by Paul on the frontline. Mick, making a brave comeback with solid guitar-work on this one, and Topper at the repetitive fill-game once again. This isn’t one of the very best on the album, and strikes as one you would skip once in a while, concerning there’s other great ones at hand. It is also the shortest on the album, ranking in at barely two minutes. The game is still going strong, as this a bit-over-average track hits us in the face, but the album will continue with more that won’t disappoint.
The good, the bad, the funky! Overpowered By Funk
makes the clear statement that this album was based off the fact that what the Clash wanted was a strong, funky record, expanding off the roots of Paul’s strings. Another longer one, and another I would consider and opera, but not really. Everyone is at their all on this one, and seems like they all have their own moments. Not solos, but moments, as they execute more fresh material and pick and thump away at the track. Joe does a good job with vocals of course, and once again does a great job with his own guitar-work on the side. The line from Paul?s bass surprisingly never gets old or repetitive as the song progresses off the base it gives off, and as Topper continues with more shuffles, and Mick gives us a nice solo mid-way, Paul will still be at it, going at it even when Joe leads the band out of the song that kept the album going, and the heart of the music pounding to a very funky beat.
Confusing as this one gets, don’t forget the band won’t fail, but won’t exactly succeed at full-speed either. Sean Flynn
starts us off with possibly the best ambience to a punk song I’ve ever heard, if you can even classify this one as punk. The whispering, ascending ambience on your speakers suddenly bring along Topper and friendly noted by Mick and Paul as you can also hear lots of brass in the distance. The song doesn’t change. You’d expect it to, but it never does. It stays as the same environment filled with more and more incoming sounds from an ever so friendly saxophone that slowly turns the remainder of the song into a jazz instrumental. As Joe rarely says a word, he keeps to his other stuff, and provides great vocals when he does. Not the 'perfect' way to continue the album, but still a great different track that strikes you to go the extra mile and finish it off.
Still not sure who it is that joins in for vocals in this one. A dark, somewhat creepy voice tells some kind of story in the beginning of Ghetto Defendant
. The band then continues to for a little while as Joe joins in at vocals, but still accompanies the same dark voice as it shoves bizarre vocals in Strummer’s mouth. This one just plainly ruins it with the voice for me, and doesn’t make me want to listen at all. The musical portion of the song isn’t that impressive either, as Paul might appear here and there with a nice riff, but isn’t very great to fill in for the rest of the musicians on the lineup here. For me, the weakest track on the album and a bit strange for my liking.
On with Inoculated City
. This one once again features Topper at some more of his best shape, and what is really interesting in this one is the duel vocals between Joe and Mick. The same harmony continues through-out every measure with ease, and effects in the background can be seen that had never been used before either. Banging, tapping, a television, and distant voices fit in the bill here, and Mick eventually shares some more of his insight on the song at the very end.
To end it all, Death Is A Star
will seem very different at first, and maybe creepy to some people, but is just a very special ballad saved for last on the album. It’s Joe in a bit of a more sentimental tone telling a story while the boys lay back a bit making way for the visions attempting to reach your mind a bit. Descriptions in the track are excellent, and the background piano just plainly adds to it. While I can say that the last two tracks are among the weakest, that’s not much to say. They were both special and stood out differently.
Joe Strummer- Vocals, Guitar
Mick Jones- Lead Guitar, Vocals
Paul Simonon- Bass, Vocals
Topper Headon- Drums
Know Your Rights- 4/5
Car Jamming- 3.5/5[/b]
Should I Stay Or Should I Go- 3.5/5[/b]
Rock The Casbah- 5/5[/b]
Red Angel Dragnet- 4/5[/b]
Straight To Hell- 5/5[/b]
Overpowered By Funk- 5/5[/b]
Atom Tan- 3.5/5
Sean Flynn- 4/5
Ghetto Defendant- 3/5
Inoculated City- 3.5/5
Death Is A Star- 4/5
It’s clear that this is one of the bands albums that really stands out from the rest in their history, and really captures a new sound that would catch on to the newer Clash generation. This is one of the band’s best works, and defines that no matter what slice of meat they choose out, and how the cook it, it will always somehow to come out being very damn delicious. As the band has a short run after this album, with their live album and Cut The Crap, one of the more poor album on this side of The Clash. Combat Rock whole-fully comes out of it’s womb with something new to offer, and leaving you wanting more. It’s one that no fan should be without, and with an attitude that gets you up and out of your seat, and at the same time pondering how they ever did it. This is an album that the band didn’t disappoint with. Not that they ever did.
“By order of the prophet/ we ban that boogie sound/ degenerate the faithful/ with that crazy casbah sound"