"We're not afraid to play around. What we're doing now is experimenting. But I'll only put on a record what is worth listening to. I hate music that's so concerned with being new that it forgets to have any soul. We experiment, but with those limitations: it's gotta be worth listening too."
- Joe Strummer, 1980
The Clash proved they could play more than the simplicity of punk rock with their masterpiece London Calling
, but Sandinista!
, the follow up released in 1980, showed some types of music that were far more unpredictable and bizzare than anything off London Calling. It has been said that this is The Clash's White Album
. The band furthered their experimentation by expanding their reggae roots and influence, and then adding heavy dub, rap, soul, world music, electronics, remixes, calypso, gospel, New York Broadway-ballads and more; but still manage to make some excellent rock songs that they did well in the past. The band also introduced more guests on the album with Ian Dury and Mickey Gallagher of The Blockheads having roles on some songs, Joe's friend and musician Tymon Dogg, who wrote, sung and played violin by himself on Lose This Skin
, Mick's then-girlfriend and singer Ellen Foley, who has a vocal duet with Mick on Hitsville UK
, the Mickey Dread number Living In Fame
as well as Paul and Topper having a role on lead vocals with The Crooked Beat
and Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
Containing a whopping 36 tracks, Sandinista!
(the name referring to the Nicaraguan army of freedom fighters) has more tracks than their previous two records combined. But the question was: Can The Clash fill in all this material with quality and up to standard music as their previous work? The answer is a mix of yes and no. Some songs on the record are some of the bands best, but some don't quite live up to expectations. Songs like Somebody Got Murdered, Up In Heaven (Not Only Here), Police On My Back
and The Magnificent Seven
clearly stand out as some of the band's best but others like the backwards dub of Mensforth Hill
and the childrens version of Career Opportunities
strike many as some of the bands worst. But the song writing hasn't lost its touch as the Strummer/Jones combination write some of the bands best lyrics (and most politically charged as well). Washington Bullets
deals with political subject matter such as the Cuban Revolution, the Soviet of War in Afghanistan and also The Sandinista in which the album is named for. The song overall portrays the band's left wing politics while other tracks like Somebody Got Murdered
features some of the bands most percise and atmospheric song writing.
To sum it up; with a first listen, Sandinista!
may sound disjointed and messy, but with further listening it seems to come together. When it all comes down, the good out weighs the bad. An essential record for Clash fans, but don't let this be your first Clash experience.