Review Summary: It’s crap, alright
After Mick Jones and Topper Headon were thrown out from the Clash, Joe Strummer had high hopes. With bassist Paul Simonon at his side and with three new fresh faces backing him, The Clash Mk. 2 hit the road with a bundle of new songs and a raw energy not heard since their punk days. Sure it wasn’t the Clash people wanted to hear, but fans and critics were impressed at the strength of the live shows and the new tracks and hopes were high for the inevitable record that would spawn from this new lineup, surely to be a classic compared to their debut and ‘London Calling’. It never came.
Like air being let out of a balloon, or more accurately, a colossal fart, ‘Cut the Crap’ stumbled onto store shelves and proceeded to terrorise listeners with its sheer immense horribleness. The rest of the band were nowhere to be found. Joe was now accompanied with garish drum machines, cheesy synth lines and a choir of football hooligans for the choruses. It hardly sounded like actual music, never mind The Clash. What the hell had happened here? The stories around Cut the Crap’s recording sessions are the stuff of legend and infamy with band manager Bernie Rhoades taking full reign of production, despite having no musical history, and coated the tracks with a collage of out of key synth horns, found sounds and muddy rotten mixing. The lyrics were weak and laughable, the melodies barely there. It was an unmitigated disaster. Strummer disbanded the Clash after release, depressed and embarrassed by the record and went his own way. ‘Cut the Crap’ stands now as the final piece in the Clash’s history. An epitaph to a bright and brilliant career. Is it as bad as reviews (and the band) say?
The record starts off in the single worst way possible. The leading cut ‘Dictator’ sums up every issue with the album in three minutes. And it’s the VERY. FIRST. SONG. Joe’s vocals are buried under droning, plain sounding guitar bursts. Cheap sounding drum machines coat the track and absolutely atrocious synth horns spew out atonal sounds across what little melody is present. To top it all off, layers of radio snippets are present, making the already difficult to hear song completely incomprehensible. It’s shockingly bad, but thankfully the record never tops the track. It stands as the worst thing the Clash ever released and one of the worst songs ever put out by a band, never mind a big name one like the Clash. The rest of side 1 struggles along with similar issues. The garish choruses, Sung in a football chant style crush whatever decent melodies the songs have. ‘Cool Under Heat’, one of the more natural sounding tracks here, with relatively untainted production, is dragged down by the obnoxiously loud and muffled chorus that sounds like it’s been filtered through a mattress from the next room. Single ‘Are You Red...Y?’ is almost entirely made up of these choruses, which, along with the muddy production, makes all the lyrics impossible to discern.
Now things aren’t all terrible. Side 2 hosts two legitimate gems amongst the wreckage of the Clash’s career. Lead single ‘This Is England’ carries strong, touching lyrics, quality vocals from Joe and a genuine anthemic chorus that fits the footie chant vocals. The other is ‘North and South’, stuck near the end of the record and featuring a sweet, gentle melody and pleasant lead vocals from Nick Sheppard, the group’s lead guitarist at the time. The production is relatively restrained and the track is tasteful and almost homely. Sadly, near every other track fails to reach the heights of these two songs. ‘Dirty Punk’, while carrying a decent beat and riff, is dragged down by atrocious amateurish lyrics and gross production and the bizarre ‘Play to Win’ is barely even a song at all, stitched up with spoken word interludes and a disjointed, stiff chorus. It’s truly out of control and nigh unlistenable.
You can’t salvage much from Cut the Crap. Bar the two tracks aforementioned, it’s very slim pickings with only the light reggae of ‘Three Card Trick’ and the tragically ironic ‘We Are the Clash’ (note: They weren’t) providing some kind of relief from the sonic onslaught here. Stay away. Stay far far away. It’s crap.
This Is England
North and South
Three Card Trick