Their albums, especially the first three are well made, and there is significant evolution in songwriting throughout their career. The range of their output gives a glimpse into a world that would have been possible of rock looked outwards and exploded with creativity rather than imploding.
Their scope begins narrowly, with the London/UK-centric first two albums, and explodes with London Calling, which is not so easily categorized. album. The vocal interplay on songs like “Spanish Bombs” is great.
The albums become a bit problematic after London Calling. Sandanista!, which has my favorite string of Clash tracks (“The Equaliser” to “Washington Bullets”), is almost 2.5 hours long and almost impossible to listen to in a sitting.
I find Combat Rock, which was tellingly made during the days that the band was falling apart, much less cohesive than their other albums, the placement of tracks like “Straight To Hell” seem off, and the last song, “Death is a Star” causes the album to fade out uncharacteristically. In an earlier iteration, Combat Rock was intended to be a double album called Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg. There are unofficial playlists floating around which compile together uncut versions of songs made around that time period into a double album. I like the sequencing suggested on Albums That Never Were, which suggests starting off with the extended “Straight to Hell” and ending on “Idle in Kangaroo Court W1”. The extended, moodier, version of Sean Flynn provides a climax to the album, which is missing in the pared down final release.
Apart from their LP’s, I think the Cost of Living EP and the songs “Bankrobber”1 and “Justice Tonight/Kick It Over” are fantastic. Many of these are anthologized in Black Market Clash, which is hard to find nowadays. Its successor, Super Black Market Clash, has only a subset of the songs, and, most importantly, misses out on “Bankrobber”.
- Live in NJ (1980) - Quality live footage from this period is surprisingly hard to find. This is one of the best concerts that I have seen online by them. Check out “Bankrobber” at the end.
- Live in 1977 - footage from the legendary year of punk. The break right before Garageland at especially cool.
- Hell W10 - A short film by Strummer starring the Clash and set to Clash songs.
- Audio from the Acton Town Hall Concert - Strummer’s last concert before his death and features Mick Jones on the last 3 songs. I love the atmosphere in this recording.
Bankrobber, especially this version Ian Brown/John Squire is a ton of fun to listen to at 1.75x speed. The only problem is that it just ends too quickly. ↩︎