Joe Strummer. Now there’s two words that shouldn’t be ignored. This is a man that brought complete perfection upon the genre we know as punk, and brought it hard with musicians that at the time were almost unbeatable at the standards of others. The Clash as all know it was one of the biggest successes to ever hit the U.K, and the U.S a bit later. From every seedy bar and club, Joe and the boys of The Clash roamed the country until noticed for their true talent. With their self titled, the big hit, and later to with release of London Calling
, The Clash hit the big time, and later were considered true legends by the larger rock population of the world. While the band ran on a determined and concentrated bassist, innovative lead-guitarist, and “the marvel on the set” drummer, the true essence and roots of the whole band came from the world-wide famous front-man. After 5 studio albums, a popular live album, and plenty of singles to go around, Strummer led the band down a road that no one else would dare drive down. The Clash disbanded.
While this upset fans, and also the media, Strummer would later pick himself up and get back on track. While his plans weren’t involved with The Clash, or any of the members for that matter, it was still intriguing where he’d go for his new inspiration and style of music. Upon finding a group of 20-something individuals, interested in making something out of Strummer’s presence, Joe found the passion to create the group that would later be called Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros
. After founding a partnership with Californian Punk label, Hellcat Records
, the band set off to begin their journey on possibly reviving the legend. The debut album, Rock Art and the X-Ray Style
was a temporary hit in the U.S, but for a man like Strummer, not very impressive by the numbers. Which later brought us to the real entrance of the band. July, 2001 marked the entrance of the album titled Global a Go-Go
. This contributed the real soul and passion Strummer had intended from the first one, and got the band farther as far as popularity in the U.S goes.
As hard as the genre was to pin down, it got to conclusion that it was a mix of punk, but mostly folk music with a bit of reggae influenced roots growing from below. As it will be classified here as just alternative, it truly shares plenty of other components that make the band very peculiar and very new. With keyboards, plenty of foreign percussion, a violin, and a variety of other different effects, Joe and the Mescaleros break through as revolutionary, and create melodies so unique that they could have only been delivered from the touch of Joe Strummer himself. Relive what was there when Rudie Can’t Fail
was around, and when The Magnificent Seven
filled the soundwaves with the ridiculously accomplished licks of Strummer and The Clash. Relive the man that perfected a whole genre, if not created a whole new style of melody and brilliance.
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros- Global A Go-Go
Joe Strummer- Lead Vocals- Rhythm Guitar
Scott Shields- Guitar, Bass
Martin Slattery- Keyboards, Guitar
Pablo Cook- Percussion
Tymon Dogg- Violin, Strings
Richard Flack- Effects
A delicate bass-line drifts along as it reaches your ears, and just in time for you to realize that the melody has begun, others softly join in as Joe comes in with the opening line to Johnny Appleseed
. This is a masterpiece, to be direct. The vocals tell a story with a sweet melody throughout the whole track, making the highlight in the breakdown and bridge. The distortion seen by two guitars seems clear but kicks in at only about one-third of the whole track. What seems to be a mandolin leads the way on the rest as Joe tells a true story, and percussion and bass follow right behind the rest of the bunch. This song is a celebration from beginning to end, and captures the mood of the album perfectly for the first track. As well as effects, everything in this track delivers to the greatest extent, making it one of the best on the album.
Joe reports the start of the nest track, as an interesting acoustic come in, and then some distortion on another. Cool ‘N’ Out
has saxophones and trombones making the others company, as the song progresses into lyrics about war, and many musical splendor can be seen. Here we see great percussion as well, as different effects on cymbals are used repeatedly, and taken farther as far as a standard jazz beat goes. The bridge changes the mix, but brings it back again, with a cyclone of progressive melody as all instruments report to the front to bring the song home. Another of the best, and so far, no disappointments.
Bubbly electronic riffs go off as the title track, Global A Go-Go
starts off, and Joe begins to rant once again politics in general. This song is a lot more bass-influenced, with the line pouncing about in every measure. The chorus is where the song picks up, and plenty of background singers come in to give it some sort of African chant. T sounds great, and keeps the song going. The second verse combines with more elements, like a piano, and more effects to go around in the background. The highlight here is the bass, as well as the whole experience of the brilliant chorus. As the whole song is based on politics, it gives off a different kind of melody like it wouldn’t seem to fit in. But strangely enough, it does, and sounds great.
starts out a bit festive with plenty of foreign percussion going off, and some strings, at that. Joe talks a bit and then dives straight into the first verse. The violin is the one that keeps things going here, while the rest sort of follow along to the continuous beat from the varied percussion in the background. It dips a bit due to Joe’s sort of monotone voice, but while most of the song is like this, he makes up for it by talking in parts of the breakdown/bridge. This track is a lot more up and more positive than the others, as the others focus on problems, while this one covers more of the less negative. Some of the best percussion on the album, and a great way to keep the mood going.
The weird spacing and strange effects continue to flow along the album as Gamma Ray
starts up. This is one of the longer tracks on here, ranking in at almost seven minutes. But then again, every track is closer to around the five minute mark. This track progresses with a nice melody from the keyboard, and a delicate bass-line can still be heard, leading the way for others. The music rests momentarily at times to let Joe speak wise words. As this is probably the track with the most strange effects taking play, the others aren’t left behind. No guitar is used here, and as that’s not exactly a bad thing, it is missed a bit. I’d say this track is about 35% ambience, and 65% actual music composition. Not that it’s a problem, as it clearly relaxes you as well as gives you more of a taste of what the band can clearly achieve. The lyrics always stay focused on the earth once again, and Joe does an outstanding job, like always. Although a bit carried-on, it’s still a great track, and not one of the ones to skip.
A shorter track appears here next. Joe sings in a very familiar tone whilst Mega Bottle Ride
fires up, and starts to already rise above in the very beginning. What can we see here other than a trusty organ, making the background more filled with melody, as plenty of strings and more excellent percussion fill the air as the track progresses at a slower tempo, but not exactly very light. The piano then replaces the organ later on, and once again the full band of singers helps out Joe on the last chorus as well as leading the song out. This is a more clam track at the beginning, but makes a brave comeback of a more festive Joe Strummer about mid-way. The wonder refuses to stop, and as the album passes it’s half-way mark with yet no disappointments, it’s looking awfully good.
continues to pave the road for more weird song titles. All these strange titles are clearly of some sort of an African decent, and seem to have the foreign percussion as well as the back-up singers. The intro for this one is very interesting, and very different to the rest. The intro is very creepy, and effects crawl about with voices and whistles ascending down, until it seems like it morphs into Joe’s vocals and starts up with the first verse. This gets the award for the more calm and more focused song in a way. Joe shares his every line with a strange voice in the background, and the bass-line crawls as well, as two acoustics tread softly deeper into the track. Percussion then leads into the bridge, which presents to a strange ascending effect that eventually leads out of the song. This track is where it all gets a bit strange, but at the same time, keeps the album going at the desireable pace.
It comes to the point where the album almost shifts mood, but yet, keeps the same pace and lyrics, thanks to Strummer. Mondo Bongo
continues with the African backdrop and continues to lead the way very softly with excellent melodies from the acoustics and violin. The continuous percussion in the back pave the way for the softer bass-line that can always be heard, and this seems to be more of an instrumental above everything else, with an accordion kicking in afterwards. This is another of the stand-out tracks, and worth a look if you want to see the musical potential of the band, more than the politically infested portion of it. The only line Joe generally has is the same repeated one, which he says once about every 45 seconds. Overall, a great look into the mind of the rest of the Mescaleros, and another of the very best on here.
Strings and other effects as well as light percussion start up Bummed Out City
; another one of the best on here. Joe points out a few lyrics in the beginning, makes way for the introductory instruments, and come in again with the rest of the verse, right before going into the chorus that screams joy and splendor into the ears of listeners. Violin keeps at grade-A material throughout the whole track, as well as percussion. Bass also, with the now typical line keeps the bass-drum of the drummer going with a nice lick here and there, and also joins in for rants in choice portions of verses with Joe. This is another one that speaks out very instrumentally instead of lyrically, and yet reaches the same potential that Joe’s vocals would. Excellent track, and as a brilliant violin leads the track out, the album nears the end already.
For another track with a big reggae influence going for it, you might want to check out At The Border, Guy
. A harmonica echoes in the distance as effects and a goshdarn organ mimic the composition, and once again, percussion and bass team up for another great session. This is another of the very long ones, ranking at a little over seven minutes, but every minute is worth it, as Joe executes with his acoustic in hand, and a familiar organ and harmonica create a swirl of melody unlike any of the others had ever even attempted. This is yet another of more musically perfect tracks, and speaks well for all of the Mescaleros, as well as Joe. The effects keep bouncing about, and a bass-drum leads out of the track while the others follow along into the abyss of silence that leads to the very last track in the album.
Here is Minstrel Boy
. Before I reveal the length of this one, I must say that it is this because of a reason. As most of the album at this point consisted of instrumentals, it wanted to lead out in a memorable way, with the same variables and techniques as the others. Minstrel Boy is approximately seventeen minutes and forty-nine seconds. And from the very beginning, to the very end, it consists of the very same shuffled jazz beat, and the same line on the violin. While some people would think it is a pain to listen if close to 20 minutes of this same stuff, to some people, it would leads out of the album in the best way possible. In some parts here, and there, Joe will pop in for a few lines and rants just a bit before the composition keeps going. A harmonica might join in at mid-way, and instruments might vary material to expand the song a bit, but in the end, sounds exactly the same. Point is, the overall sound of this track is truly memorable and leads out the album in one of the best ways, with the Mescaleros leading the way, for a sudden change.
Stand Out Tracks
Global A Go-Go
Bummed Out City
At The Border, Guy
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros is a celebration within itself and brings about the legend as we know him, to new heights and new melodies to add to his career. All I can say, is this album deserves every bit of this score, and it worked for it, and earned it. Joe Strummer led the way for a project that possibly no one else may have thought up of, and succeeded with about some thirty-odd songs to show for it. With a band that holds the talent others would have envy for, and an arsenal of great lyrics and effects up his sleeve, his comeback is as strong as it could have possibly been. As he might be gone, he will always leave the remains of The Clash, and now, this collection of what I may call some of his greatest material in his legacy. If you’re a fan of The Clash, and Strummer’s vocals, in particular, I urge you to check out this record, and see where Joe as we know him, went to next. For whoever said that Joe died after The Clash, this is an utter wake-up call. Relive it. Joe Strummer is gone. But the legend lives on.