Review Summary: Musicially similar to their debut, Give em Enough Rope is a solid punk record with a number of the bands best songs that often gets unfairly overlooked in between two classic albums
About a year after The Clash's self titled debut release in 1977, The Clash were due for a follow up album. The Clash's self titled album was very poorly recorded, so Columbia Records (U.S.A.'s CBS) would not release it into The United States market. So CBS decided that one way to crack the American market was to bring in Sandy Pearlman, best known as the producer of Blue Oyster Cult, to produce the album, giving it a cleaner and more appealing sound. People were beginning to wonder why the record was taking so long to be released, a question that the band really became annoyed with at interviews. Joe Strummer replied with saying:
"We want to release an album that's ten times better than the first one and then one that's ten times better than that. Because records cost so much we want to make damn sure that every groove on that record has something brilliant in it. If it takes a year, then let it."
While this record may not be ten
times better than their excellent debut, Give 'Em Enough Rope
is a very strong and impressive sophomore album. So in November of 1978, when The Clash and Sandy Pearlman were done recording, the album was released to the UK and the USA to critical acclaim, even if some old fans of the band didn't like the cleaner sound. Though Give 'Em Enough Rope
takes away some of the raw sound, which many may disapprove of; it really shows the bands instrumental talen betters, something that many punk bands weren't too accomplished at during that time and it also displays Mick and Joe's vocals better than their debut. One of the major differences between this record and their self titled, is that this combines more of a rock sound to it, rather than just a raw punk feel. By the way this is also the first record to feature Topper Headon on drums on all tracks which is a definite upgrade (Terry Chimes played on the first record). Now on to the album...
Give 'Em Enough Rope
opens up with the blairing guitar of a Clash Classic, Safe European Home
. An overall energetic song and one of the best on the album. An excellent way to start off a great album and really sets the tone with Joe's powerful vocals echoed by Mick Jones'. But the song is also noted for making the first clear reference to "Rudie", a character/symbol that would be further explained on the song Rudie Can't Fail
from London Calling and then even more on the film Rude Boy in 1980. Following the opener is English Civil War
, one of the two singles from this album. This song has a familiar beat to it as it is the same beat as "The ants go marching one by one", but is actually a remake musically (not lyrically) of the Irish anti-war song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again", in which the childrens song was then built off of . English Civil War
is a great punk song and keeps a steady beat throughout the whole song and also has a great guitar solo provided by Mick Jones. It is also the shortest song on the album at a little over two and a half minutes. The third track, Tommy Gun
is the last of the two singles released from this album. Tommy Gun opens up with one of the most attention grabbing intros I've heard with a quick drum roll and then blasting guitar a number of times getting quicker every time until the verse kicks in. Topper does a solid job and stands out throughout the whole track and it makes for one of the best here and one of The Clash's better punk songs. The pace slows down a bit with this next song. Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad
shows signs of early experimentation for the band. It is a nice song with some great rock and roll style piano and backing vocals from Mick. The experiementation here or rather expanding musical genres would only be furtherd on albums to come. It also has some very fun lyrics and fun to sing along to also.
At the midway point and the fifth track comes Last Gang in Town
. At first, I thought of it as not one of the strongest songs of the album; but the more I listen, it keeps getting better. The song keeps at a very steady pace throughout the song. Featuring some good lyrics and a solid performance from the whole band, the song is put together well. The only downfall to this song is that it may be to long; clocking in at over five minutes it is the longest on the album. Again Mick does a fine job at backing up Joe's vocals in parts of the song. Track number six is Guns on the Roof
, a hard-hitting punk opens up with an almost identical riff to The Who's I Can't Explain
or rather a slower version of the opening riff to Clash City Rockers
from The Clash (US)
. It is nothing too amazing but an overall strong song and fits nicely in the middle of the album. Following Guns on the Roof
is Drug-Stabbing Time
. It is not of the best on the album but still rather enjoyable. This song is very catchy and features a great saxophone solo that you would find on many later Clash songs, namely The Right Profile
and Jimmy Jazz
from London Calling
. The chorus could get a little repetitive as it is overused a bit with Joe singing: "Drug-Stabbing Time; Well I got working on the Ford Line; A payin" off the big fine; Drug Stabbing Time;
features Mick Jones on lead vocals here and a great change of pace for the album as well as one of The Clash's best ballad-type songs, in this case about a long time friend of Mick Jones. Stay Free
is slightly slower and more relaxed then the previous few songs, but still has its rockin' moments, mostly toward the end of the song. It also has one of Paul's best bass lines which carries the song. Overall a great, well-written song and one of the band's best. Next is Cheapskates
, another definite highlight of the album. A solid rock song, and keeps getting better throughout the verses and makes you anticipate the chorus. Joe does a great job singing this and Mick again provides a great solo. We now get to the tenth and final track of the album. And what a way to end off. Clocking in at five minutes, every minute of it is amazing. All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts)
has some inspiring lyrics, especially in the chorus where Joe sings: "All the young punks, laugh your life, cos there ain't much to cry for/ All the young punks, live it now, cos there ain't much to die for"
. Instrumentally, it is not a very heavy song, but still not quite soft either. It has a good mid-tempo feel to it ending the album on a good note.
This is a very well put together follow up album to a classic debut. It remains a classic album to me, but The Clash do have stronger albums like London Calling
, but nevertheless, this is a strong album, no doubt. I highly recommend this album to any fan of punk or rock. It's a shame sometimes this album is overlooked or underated because it is it shouldn't be, and is deserving of full recognition, even though it only contains ten tracks, the shortest on a Clash LP. To follow up this album about a year and a bit after this was released, The Clash put out one of the most influntial albums to date, the epic London Calling
. But back to Give 'Em Enough Rope; It is definetly one of the Clash's best and never seems to grow old. For that I give it a very strong...
Safe European Home
All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts)