The Clash
Combat Rock


2.0
poor

Review

by Iai EMERITUS
October 9th, 2007 | 21 replies


Release Date: 1982 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Clash's career never recovered from this ugly dud.

It's not hard to estimate the mindset of The Clash post-London Calling. Sadinista proved that, if they couldn't actually do everything, they at least thought it was worth trying. It resulted in an album that was inconsistent to say the least, but also full of highlights. Depending on your mentality, it was either an admirable failure, or an unlikely, messy success. And that is what people often overlook when they call Combat Rock a mini-Sadinista - within the earlier effort, there was a great single album hidden, and that made it worthwhile. Combat Rock, on the other hand, is basically an utter failure.

"Know Your Rights" sounds as if it's going to kick the album off on the right foot. Although it's a little too preachy, it is, at the very least, interesting - there aren't many other examples of such obvious, blatant politics being spouted over music as poppy as this. There are, it must be said, less accessible songs than this by Girls Aloud. That, of course, made a lot of short-sighted, stupid punks call them 'sell-outs', ignoring the fact that this is actually a pretty good song, and if ideologies matter more to them than music then they should stop buying records and spend their time visiting preachers instead. Like any opener should, it sets the tone, but in a bad way. While it looks as if it's going to lead to an album that exploits their pop instinct and add the politics of their debut into the mix (an impression helped by "Car Jamming"), it actually leads into a series of genre experiments, of which "Know Your Rights" is one of only 2 successes.

The other success is, of course, "Rock The Casbah". It's a flat-out awesome song, no two ways about it, and it will forever rank as one of the best things The Clash ever did. Rather than being a straight genre excursion, this brings in African percussion, jazz piano, Phil Spector-esque handclaps and harmonies, dubby sound effects, and a disco rhythm. The end result is stunning. It was their first real US hit, and deservedly so.

There is but one more pleasure - "Should I Stay or Should I Go", for better or worse, set the tone for much of the '80s stadium pop/rock that followed, both in its simplicity and production. Never mind that though; it's a great song, and it sticks out like a sore thumb because it is just that. This is the only song on this album that doesn't see The Clash trying to impress the listener, or prove that really, they're down with all that black music the kids are listening to.

They were, of course, but much of Combat Rock plays like a band attempting funk and dub having heard only one album from either genre. "Red Angel Dragnet" brings the album to a grinding halt, its music indistinct, its spoken word lyric far too cheesy an approximation of reggae toasting to ever work. And from that point on, the album never recovers, Strummer and the boys decided that instead of writing great rock songs and dressing them up in other genres, they'd forego the songwriting and just try and sound like something they're not. Even one of the song titles gives that away - The Clash's attempt at a funk song is called....wait for it...."Overpowered By Funk"! Brilliant. Could you imagine The Clash containing a song called "Overpowered By Punk"" The track entirely fails to overpower the listener with anything except bemusement, sounding like a rejected song from the Sonic The Hedgehog soundtrack. The rest is the same with different genres - "Sean Flynn" is lazy, derivative world music that sounds like it belongs on a documentary, and would have been a boring filler on Paul Simon's Graceland; "Ghetto Defendant" is more boring reggae; "Death Is A Star" is an attempt at sounding European that would maybe have a shot at being on the bed for Eurotrash, if it was lucky. That, in a nutshell, is the reason that Side 2 of Combat Rock is one of the most pointless listening experiences I've ever been through. Each song here sounds like it should be on a TV show or video game; like it was written in 15 minutes by a faceless session composer with no passion for pop music (nor any skill for composition, quite frankly). Even the much-vaunted "Straight To Hell" is pretty poor.

This is the sound of a once-great band falling apart into mediocrity. If London Calling was their Revolver or their Sgt. Peppers, and Sadinista was their The Beatles, then this is The Clash's Let it Be - a desperately inconsistent album that holds far more crap than gold, but still has 2 or 3 songs that remind just how great this band once were. In short, it's a disappointing, depressing, boring album.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
October 9th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Not really got time or an internet connection to write new reviews at the minute, so here's one from a couple months ago I had knocking about. Enjoy.This Message Edited On 10.09.07

ohcleverhansyou
October 9th 2007


885 Comments


Well this is a shame...but just thinking about "Rock the Casbah" gets it stuck in my head.

tom79
October 9th 2007


3638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's funny how Combat Rock was their big break with those two big, catchy singles and all, yet the rest is some of their most inaccessible work (behind half of Sandinista!) though most of it is still really good. Overall the band's weakest album though (not including Cut the Crap).



And Straight To Hell is one of Strummer's best moments ever, and the live version is great too. I don't see how it can be thought of as poor at all.This Message Edited On 10.09.07

JohnXDoesn't
October 9th 2007


1393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this album is by no means and in no way a 2. i don't even want to read the review for what it might say. i can't imagine....





/reads review



and tom79 i wouldn't use the phrase "weakest album" to describe this. it plays like a little Sandinista, of sorts. i also don't get the inaccessible thing. Car Jamming, Atom Tan, Straight To Hell, the hit singles, Know Your Rights, Ghetto Defendant, Inoculated City, Red Angel Dragnet, all perfectly accessible. good tunes, one and all.





EDIT and fuk me Death Is A Star is great. always did like that little diddy



nice review but, um, yeah....This Message Edited On 10.09.07

tom79
October 9th 2007


3638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, I do prefer every other Clash record over this, hence the 'weakest' thing, but I still love this album. And personally I think songs like Ghetto Defendant (with Ginsberg's poem at the starting), Red Angel Dragnet and especially Sean Flynn kinda inacessible for most at first, as I put them off for a while when I bought this album a few years ago.



But yeah, songs like Car Jamming and Atom Tan are pretty simple and fun. And also, I do really dig Death is a Star.This Message Edited On 10.09.07

Pacific Specific
October 10th 2007


2 Comments


awful review, this album rocks hard..

Tyler
Emeritus
October 10th 2007


7925 Comments


you can disagree but awful review? seriously?

Electric City
Emeritus
October 10th 2007


15762 Comments


n00b.

John Paul Harrison
October 10th 2007


1014 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i liked the album. maybe not a quality record, but charming.



although some parts, like the toilet bowl cleaner soundbit, were just too weird for me to digest.

Two-Headed Boy
October 11th 2007


4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is a pretty good album, but surely not their best.

londoncalling457
October 12th 2007


2711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is nothing too special, but I don't think it deserves a 2. Good review as always though.

JohnXDoesn't
October 12th 2007


1393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

a "nothing too special" album you rated "Excellent" oic :rolleyes:This Message Edited On 10.12.07

Jawaharal
October 14th 2007


1832 Comments


Album automatically merits a 3 because it has Rock The Casbah which is the best song ever.

tomwaits4noman
December 11th 2007


91 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

have to disagree not their best but has some of their best songs

rock the casabh, straight to hell, know your rights,Should I Stay or Should I Go....



ok get The Clash US version, London Calling and Clash on Broadway and you have most of their classics.... though know your rights is missing from Clash on Broadway.



kygermo
November 14th 2008


1007 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I think Overpowered by Funk is the best song on the album lol.

berlin1973
October 3rd 2013


38 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Good album but The Clash (UK) and Give 'Em Enough Rope remain their bests

DrHouseSchuldiner
October 3rd 2013


5643 Comments


The Clash (UK) is my fav

JazzHands333
October 3rd 2013


314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The Clash (US) is better though

DrHouseSchuldiner
October 3rd 2013


5643 Comments


no way!

JazzHands333
October 3rd 2013


314 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes way, Clash City Rockers, I Fought the Law, and White Man In Hammersmith Palais are tremendous



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