March 1, 2006

Records You Should Own

Gotta admit - with a birthday coming up this Sunday, I'm feeling a bit nostalgic, thinking about the first single I ever purchased. I admit, I was about 11, and I bought it for the poppy a-side...however, it was the B-Side that blew my mind. Immediately, a marital 4/4 drum beat pounded its way into my brain, accompanied by powerful chords....soon, an ominous bassline emerged, and finally, a man announced, his life - and ours - in the balance:
"London Calling, to the faraway towns
Now war is declared, and battle come down"
This month's Record You Should Own is the Clash's masterpiece, London Calling. Coming, as it did, after the Clash's debut and the underappreciated Give 'Em Enough Rope, this album is just one wall-to-wall musical F#@% Yeah! moment, a stylistic smorgasboard that starts strong and only peters out with the final track.

Stylistically, this showed that the Clash was no mere punk band, but a musical force (the U2 of its generation, so to speak). Taking on rockabilly, ska, reggae, surf, pop, Spectorian-balladry, even flat-out rock - this had to blow the minds of those who thought punk a passing fad, or even decried that certain bands couldn't play. Only three other albums disprove that punk was all about amateurism, and shows bands breaking preconceptions - the Clash proved with this album that they not only could play, but showed that there was almost nothing they couldn't do.
In addition, let's point out Joe Strummer's lyrics - if you wanted to make a case for him as a punk Dylan, I wouldn't argue. I'm taking a lot of these lyrics out of context, but Strummer's ability to make the global personal - and to go straight to the heart of things - really shines here. Even Paul Simonon's "The Guns of Brixton" contains razor sharp lyrics, proving Paul was no frickin' Ringo.

Case in point - my personal favorite song, "Death or Glory". Starting with a very simple premise:
"Now every cheap hood makes a bargain with the world
Ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl"
Soon moves into a lyric that puts any and every band in its place, and seems fresh even in our more jaded times:
"'N' every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock 'n' roll
Grabs the mike to tell us he'll die before he's sold
But I believe in this-and it's been tested by research
he who ***** nuns will later join the church"
Yes, I sanitized it, but you know what? Buy the record and hear it for yourself. They dis Green Day before those dudes even ripped off their first riff - how cool is that?

Tight playing. Strong songwriting. Passion. Fire. Energy. You have to own this album.

Now, you have no excuse.

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