The Clash
London Calling


5.0
classic

Review

by Nagrarok USER (219 Reviews)
November 30th, 2009 | 48 replies


Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist

Review Summary: If you'd make a list of albums that have changed your life...

A Decade of Punk: The Clash in Six Chapters

An Account Dedicated to the Genius of Joe Strummer

Chapter III: The Clash Reach Creative Perfection

Surely, I had heard about The Clash a year ago. I had heard their as-of-today popular single Should I Stay or Should I Go, which, I so naively thought back then, represented their sound. The only other thing I really knew about them were that they were a punk rock group from Britain, a country I had always massively loved as far as musical preferences were concerned (and are still concerned now).

After moving forward, say, a couple of months, I heard about that album, London Calling, supposedly a classic, and not only in its genre. I had heard a single track off that record, the title cut. That song was immensely catchy, immensely British, immensely lyrically brilliant, immensely whatnot: in short: immensely fantastic. My curiosity had been awakened.

Now I sit here today, holding this very same album in a very high regard, and piecing together how I got to that point. I can tell you, it did not happen overnight. In fact, when I first heard it, London Calling didn’t exactly blow me away. Apart from that title track, which I still loved, I didn’t hear all that much appeal. I could enjoy the more straightforward rock songs, such as Brand New Cadillac.

I know now why I thought like that then. My view of music had been extremely narrow-minded, the only two genres listened to by me being rock and metal. I honestly admit those still remain the favourites, but at some point, a logical revelation overcame me: I grew slightly bored with the all-too-soon similar-sounding songs. I needed to explore new grounds, fresh areas, territories unknown to the my mind.

Now, it is wrong to say London Calling is solely responsible for that realization and the change it caused. It were multiple factors that created a reaction, but in terms of chemistry, The Clash and their famous album were one of the stronger catalysers. In a way, London Calling redefined my experience of music.

But enough with the blabbering. Those of you who will have come as far as to this sentence will by now be wondering what is so great about this 1979 album, and I will eagerly enlighten them.



If you’ve kept up with my previous two reviews, or already know the story of The Clash from their very raw roots in London, you know that their early work, especially their self-titled debut, was straightforward, simple in composition, and fuelled by Mick Jones’ catchy guitar work and Joe Strummer’s iconic, shouty voice. London Calling turns almost that whole approach upside down. Under Strummer’s lead, the band began incorporating genre’s such as reggae, ska, pop and jazz into their traditional punk sound. As such, it is no real surprise the rock purist may at first experiencing trouble getting used to the album’s sound.

In the end though, that perhaps initially slightly uneasy mix of styles is the one that pays off most. As time passed, and the time spent with the album added up, I came to realize there was so much more to The Clash than that magnificent title track. It still stands as one of the album’s best cuts, however, with its semi-apocalyptic lyrics, carefully put into metaphor as always, and best of all: it has attitude. A certain attitude that The Clash only began to truly immerse themselves in on this album. Perhaps that credit is partly due to the fine rhythm section consisting of Simonon and Headon, who put out a performance no one could have deemed them ever capable of on the previous Give ‘Em Enough Rope. The bass is positively prominent, with incredible moments such as the jumpy line in the title track, and Headon’s drumming is impeccable, performed with both great timing and skill.

These musicians, with this approach, in the London environment of the late 70’s, created a 19-track album that still has found no equal. Undoubtedly the diversity of the album is one of the reasons it has maintained its status. Each and every track sounds completely unique, and yet, this musical melting pot makes it all fit together. It was truly an incredible achievement.

As said, the title track can be a little misleading, as it is perhaps one of the closest resemblances of The Clash’ earlier work, despite the improved instrumentation and attitude. Even follow-up Brand New Cadillac, a then-20-year-old cover from British rock and roll singer Vince Taylor, which stays with the simple three-chord punk format and an overly present Strummer, does not at all forebode things to come. It is only from the third track onward that we are strangely aroused by what on earth The Clash have been doing in those recording sessions.

We find ourselves between the ska of Hateful, the more accessible pop influences in Lost in the Supermarket and Train in Vain, the strongly reggae-like The Guns of Brixton and the jazz in Jimmy Jazz. That’s not where this almost eclectic experience stops, however. Outstanding additions are new instruments such as the surprisingly fitting horn sections in Rudie Can’t Fail, The Right Profile and Wrong ‘Em Boyo and the piano in The Card Cheat. Luckily, the raw punk is still very prominent in tracks such as Clampdown, showing that The Clash hadn’t forgotten their very important past. On top of this, they still included lyrical wit, which as ever addressed crucial political and social themes, carefully put into often metaphorical language. They had it all put together.

I could go on forever about London Calling’s superior quality and diversity, of course, but it must be up to those who have not heard it yet to make it a high priority. Some albums must be heard, and this is one of them. London Calling is, because of its eclectic mix, not only extremely relevant in the classic punk scene, but also outside of it. Like any true classic, it needs its time to fully sink in, but damn: it’s worth it. A definite peak for The Clash, which they had been so steadily building towards. Sadly, they would only go downhill…

- 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:

London Calling
Brand New Cadillac
Hateful
Rudie Can’t Fail
Spanish Bombs
Lost in the Supermarket
Clampdown
The Guns of Brixton
Wrong ‘Em Boyo
The Card Cheat
Train in Vain


TO BE CONTINUED...



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user ratings (2501)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Nagrarok
November 30th 2009


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0



So what if I put more than half of the album on the essential list. Fact is, more than half of the album is essential.

EVedder27
November 30th 2009


6088 Comments


exxxcellent review.
See what I did there?

Anyways the album is amazing I might have to give it another listen or two soon since I haven't in a while.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
November 30th 2009


32190 Comments


Nice review man, but out of the 12 paragraphs you have only 3 describe the music on the album, and one of your paragraphs is 2 sentences long.
Still like it though, pos for ya troubles.

Roach
November 30th 2009


2148 Comments


really don't like this album at all

Nagrarok
November 30th 2009


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah Deviant, but I figured since it's difficult to cover new ground with the other reviews, I made it a little different. That short paragraph is meant to indicate the break between the long intro and the actual reviewing part.



See what I did there?




I most certainly did. Thanks to you.



JohnnyGetYerKnife
November 30th 2009


157 Comments


I don't really like The Clash. It's not that this isn't an exceptional album, but when you compare it to American Punk (The Ramones etc), it doesn't compare. I don't see why this is classed as punk.

Fugue
November 30th 2009


7371 Comments


Good review, I don't like the use of "In short" twice so quickly as in your second paragraph.

Nagrarok
November 30th 2009


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is simply classed as punk because it is punk. Punk with lots of new ideas added to it. As for The Ramones, very samey sounding 2-minute songs does not make great records.

Roach
November 30th 2009


2148 Comments


The Clash are the Green Day of the late 70's & 80's

Nagrarok
November 30th 2009


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Oooops. Normally such mistakes don't go unnoticed by me. Will fix, thanks for pointing out.

KILL
November 30th 2009


81231 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

lol roach

Metalstyles
Emeritus
November 30th 2009


8573 Comments


another good review to boot. Maybe, just maybe I'll give this a go. Not on top of my list though, have enough metulz to go through first :P

Fugue
November 30th 2009


7371 Comments


Tis OK man.

Nagrarok
November 30th 2009


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Take heed to my warning if you do, don't put it off after a few listens.

shade
November 30th 2009


1198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

top 3 record of all time

LepreCon
November 30th 2009


5451 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album rules

Nagrarok
November 30th 2009


8588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

top 3 record of all time




You didn't even have it rated.

Roach
November 30th 2009


2148 Comments


nonononononononononononono you guys

classic punk albums come via husker du and minutemen

shade
November 30th 2009


1198 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I had the legacy edition rated by mistake. fixed.

Titan50
November 30th 2009


4588 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Roach, stop



Album is an undeniable classic, awesome review. Also, one of the best covers of all time



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