The Clash
London Calling


5.0
classic

Review

by Tom93M USER (139 Reviews)
March 16th, 2012 | 61 replies


Release Date: 1979 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Where punk truly transcends its limits and a masterpiece is born.

Today we are plagued. More specifically, plagued by a mass of information; we are the internet age and are likely united through at least one common facet of merely existing in these times - we’ve all encountered those ‘best of’ lists, critically or subjectively attempting to make sense of the digestion of all this data, ranking something as vague and abstract as recorded sound above or below another example. The point of my educated but unprofessional rambling boils down to the notion that, if like myself, you’ve sat and read a few of those lists - perhaps a ‘greatest albums of the 70’s’ or maybe even ‘most important albums ever’ article - you’ll have surely witnessed some critic or random Tom, Dick or Harry pouring out his best superlative efforts to explain why a 1979 LP by English punk band The Clash was, and is, so damn important. We are living in a time of unprecedented information, so when a repeat offender rears its dusty head up as many times as London Calling does, one must begin to take notice, and after discovering the album, giving it time to seep in amongst the other tracks our ilk have doubtless floating around their music obsessed minds, this author must claim that next time he flirts with the idea of making one of those lists himself, The Clash’s 3rd LP has become something utterly impossible not to include. And pretty damn high up, too.

Both historically and personally to The Clash, London Calling was massively crucial. It served as one of the most convincing and exciting examples of just how far punk rock could be stretched; with its creators pushing the boundaries of their once straight ahead rock sound into realms few other punks managed, including themselves, to this extent at least. Punk had a reputation for being puckish and dumb, with those reluctant to change or move with times initially tarring the creators of such music as untalented and stupid. But as punk evolved into post-punk and new wave, such blind detractors were often left eating their own words, perhaps nowhere more stunningly than when London Calling hit the shelves in 1979.

There’s a dizzying array of cosmopolitan styles and genres mixed and interlaced together, carefully built on top of urgent punk foundations. There’s a musical intelligence here; a sound crafted by inexcusably talented and ambitious musicians, that ends up drifting away from its roots so much by incorporating the roots of their collective influences. Listening to London Calling may lead one to initially assume that this isn’t punk at all, what with the blend of roots, rockabilly, reggae, ska and countless other intercontinental splashes, but through its unification of such disparate sources, and once enriched by the stabbing political messages thread throughout, one begins to see just how clever The Clash were. It’s not punk music in the sense of 3 chords, dumb rock, as it rarely touches on such ground, but it still has a fiery punk spirit undercutting each and every outing, and through its adaptation of foreign musical styles, the sound becomes more political and revolutionary than any punk band has sounded before, in mere musical terms at least. With London Calling, The Clash broke off into post-punk, but through the album’s intelligent mix of styles, they’ve also dragged the pure guts of punk along with them, and in the process, transcended the genre’s limits to an unprecedented standard.

It’s an epic manifesto too, with a whopping 19 tracks and an hour of disc space. There’s virtually an iconic song every other track or so – the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic tension of ‘London Calling’; the sense of urgency and suffocated anger on ‘The Guns of Brixton’; the guitar pop meets political ramblings of ‘Spanish Bombs’; not to mention the delights of other grade A tracks such as the jerky ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, the consumerist attack of ‘Lost in the Supermarket’, the metallic ‘Clampdown’, and the anthemic ‘Death or Glory’. There’s quality, vibrancy, urgency, thrills and hooks consistent throughout the entire track-list, ultimately, and when you strip away deep analysis or historical importance, this is what truly matters, and here, The Clash did nothing but nail making an enduring, influential and truly classic album – pile on top the aforementioned deeper levels present and the historic musical importance of this double LP, and we finally arrive at my humble declaration of just why all those inclusions in the upper echelons of ‘greatest ever albums’ lists make complete and utter sense. London Calling is a musical revolution, and simply one of the most stunning rock albums of all time.



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user ratings (2522)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
clercqie
March 16th 2012


6521 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Daunting review, Tom. Especially for my favorite album of all time. Will read most attentively

MO
March 16th 2012


22502 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yep albums rules face.



Great review.

Tom93M
March 16th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Hope it gets the clercqie seal of approval! I spent a while on it 'cos you have to with an album as crucial as this.



Thanks, Opeth :D

johnnyblaze
March 16th 2012


3179 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

great review. 5/5 for real

porch
March 16th 2012


8460 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

yeah this is hugely overrated by the same kind of people who rely on those canonical best of lists when judging an era of music



neg isn't mine

Tom93M
March 16th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cheers. Thanks for the pos, whoever it was too.



Oh dear, Porch...

clercqie
March 16th 2012


6521 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Alright, so it's good review. And you did a better job than I ever could (I wouldn't even want to try though). But I get the feeling the content is a bit superfluous. I know, going really into the details for the writing and recording process, the historical importance, the evolution from "generic punk", what have you... would result in a 10 page review. Maybe you could have focused on one particular background aspect and delved a bit deeper?



Then again, you really don't talk all that much about the music contained within (I know, most has been said elsewhere, but still...) and that left me wanting for more, in all honesty.



Also,

A tracks such as the jerky ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’,...


I think there's something wrong with this sentence? Drop the A perhaps?



But yeah, maybe I'm being a bit harsh, you still did a great job. Sorry for my rambling : )

Betacra
March 16th 2012


307 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

lol, 2.

johnnyblaze
March 16th 2012


3179 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

grade A bro. c'mon

Tom93M
March 16th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

clercqie - I'd probably be as critical if you reviewed Joy Division so don't worry, dude, haha. Yeah, that 'A' is part of 'Grade A', as in top notch. But the rest is taken on board : )



clercqie
March 16th 2012


6521 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Yeah, thought it would be 'Grade A', maybe add that to the review, it'd be clearer ; )



Also, I may add that while the British scene was a bit narrow-minded, the American scene (CBGB's) was really diverse, even before the post-punk explosion.



Edit: nvm, you fixed it

Tom93M
March 16th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It does say grade A... I'm sure it was, but i think Britain was too - we branched off more hevaily into electronics and stuff as well as dark stuff like JD, plus kicking off goth rock, not with this album of course, but with other post-punk groups of the time. Both territories had their merits but i prefer British post-punk if im honest.

clercqie
March 16th 2012


6521 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Then I just read over it, sorry about that...



Yeah, Britain followed with the post-punk, definitely. Also, I always wondered why the Brits have such a fascination for electronics (even to this day).

Tom93M
March 16th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I think its our European touch perhaps. I think Bowie's Berlin stuff brought a dash of that too, to those listening back home. I don't know but this period was really forward looking for Britain - had stuff like this, then moody stuff like JD, goth kicked off too and the whole synth-pop thing. Great time for music wasn't it? : )

WashboardSuds
March 16th 2012


5101 Comments


excellent review

Tom93M
March 16th 2012


1106 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, Suds.

KILL
March 16th 2012


81233 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

overrated but i dig it

KILL
March 16th 2012


81233 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

i dig s/t harder do you agwee

someguest
March 16th 2012


29892 Comments


It's funny you reviewed this today, I was just blasting it a short time ago. Few albums top it.

Digging: Earth - Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version

KILL
March 16th 2012


81233 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

lol



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