I am (very likely) about to commit blasphemy:
You see, it’s my considered opinion that this is sooo close to being a perfect record… but it ain’t.
Now just hold your vitriol for a minute. Don’t flame me just yet. You see, I understand that the Clash have become Gods to just about everybody who claims to know and care about rock and roll, but for a bunch of punkers who weren’t supposed to care about that shit anyway, it’s kind of hypocritical. Remember how you all started this movement because you hated the bloat of Zeppelin and Floyd and the Stones, and your governments weren’t there for you at all? Yah, well, if the shoe fits. Guess you become what you hate. It’s OK, the Boomers’ counter-culture of Love did the same thing. People never change – they hate The Man until they become The Man themselves and then they’ll swear up and down that what they had mattered more than what they now have (but they’ll never give it up once they get it, either). So why not call it what it is? Envy. Well, whatever. Tell us something we don’t already know.
Anyway, I’m not knocking the music of the Clash. No sir, I love it. They made a whole pile of awesome tunes, and this record is 95% amazing. Yes, 18 of these 19 tracks kick so much ass it’s unbelievable. Brand New Cadillac is maybe my favourite Clash song (on par with many, many others I won’t waste space listing here), and it’s here at track 2, right after the classic title track. The slur of Jimmy Jazz (with its awesome “and then it sucks” bridge part) then leads to song after song of awesome and essential tracks… but then there’s Lost In The Supermarket.
This is one of the dumbest songs I’ve ever heard, and it’s the reason that London Calling will never be a perfect record, to me. If they’d just had the sense to leave that one off, I’d name this a desert island disc, for sure. That song just sucks. It totally doesn’t fit the record – the riff is weak and it sounds plastic compared to the rest of the record. Did someone behind a desk convince them that this could be a huge hit? To me, this song is on par with Sloan’s The Other Man, that one song they should have scrapped, gotten drunk and then gone on to write better tracks instead.
So should I really bitch when I still have 18 fantastic tracks to enjoy and, with the CD technology at my disposal, can I not just skip that track and get on with life? Sure, and I do just that. But it’s still there. It exists and cannot be completely ignored. It is the one flaw on an otherwise perfect surface.
Anyway, ignore that unfortunate song. The rest of this record is exactly what a zillion people before me have already said in a bazillion different ways – it’s fucking amazing. And you know, I never even really thought of this as a punk record. Sure, what they are on about has the strident political and social awareness of the best punk tradition, but most of the music is closer to two-tone and rockabilly than it is typical of the punk of its day. Well, punk is an attitude more than anything else, after all, so perhaps it still is… Discuss. And then there’s the now-classic album art, and everything else about this record that makes it so close to brilliant.
And who cares? Clearly, I do. Imagine that.
This copy I played for this review (and for probably the millionth time in my life) is the 20th anniversary release from 1999, and it sounds great. I just wish that that one song could have been left behind. Ye gods, it’s bad.
London Calling. Almost perfect.
01 London Calling
02 Brand New Cadillac
03 Jimmy Jazz
05 Rudie Can’t Fail
06 Spanish Bombs
07 The Right Profile
08 unfortunately, Lost In The Supermarket (g-d, why?)
10 The Guns Of Brixton
11 Wrong ‘Em Boyo
12 Death Or Glory
13 Kola Kola
14 The Card Cheat
15 Lover’s Rock
16 Four Horsemen
17 I’m Not Down
18 Revolution Rock
19 Train In Vain