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Monday 19 February 2018

Shaking Single Engine Planes Traffic King Stereos From Cuba

Opinion seems to be that The Clash's final album* Combat Rock is a major label attempt to break the band in the States and shift some serious units. The hit singles and the production seem to suggest that this was an album where the Sandinista! style experimentation was off the agenda in favour of stadia and the top 40. Maybe that's partly true but Combat Rock also contains some songs that only The Clash could have made and only The Clash could think were commercial. Straight To Hell goes without saying. Ghetto Defendant (with Allen Ginsberg) is a reggae blues anti-heroin lament. I've written before about the record's closing song, Death Is A Star, a 6 minute excursion into modern jazz and the nature of fame. Opening song Know Your Rights is a call to arms, a rant against government and police forces, crunching two chord agit-pop. It is followed by Car Jamming.

Car Jamming is a treat, everyone playing their part with some of Joe's most Strummer-esque lyrics. Topper sets up a tub thumping rhythm and is joined by Mick playing post-punk guitar, both paying some kind of tribute to Bo Diddley but in a very early 80s way. Paul's bass is a descending roots reggae line, low in the mix. Joe's lyrics are the icing on the cake- funky multi-nationals, King Kong, Agent Orange, gorillas and hyenas and Lauren Bacall- 'I swear fellas, Lauren Bacall!' All as seen from the window of a New York taxi in a traffic jam. And I love the way he closes with 'ah, yeah, positively, absolutely', every syllable separated.

*The proper line up's final album that is, not the rump Clash's Cut The Crap

Car Jamming


Echorich said...

I have always thought the weakest songs on Combat Rock are those that gained them the most attention. I have no real gripe with Rock The Casbah (a song that hardly any Americans will ever understand) or the most overplayed Should I Stay Or Should I Go, but it's the experiments and the poetry of Combat Rock that makes it an equal to some of their best work. Straight To Hell is possibly the most poignant song from Strummer. Car Jamming is Topper's Gene Krupa moment - it's all about the drums my boy! Red Angel Dragnet is commentary on the controversial shooting of a member of the Guardian Angels and features Kosmo Vinyl. It has a dark, almost psychotic feel to it - influenced by Taxi Driver.
But one of the songs that gets little love that just gets me dancing in my seat or around the front room is Overpowered By Funk. Once again, The Clash managed to make you dance to their socio-political message.

Brian said...

I'm a proud fan of Combat Rock. I was 12 when it came out, and that's where the adventure began for me. Straight to Hell is in my Clash top 10 for sure.