The Only Band That Matters (Guess Who? Hint: It’s not the Guess Who!)

I don’t talk much about The Clash. Maybe it’s because of over saturation. I’ve listened to their albums so often over the years I can pretty much name any tune within three seconds from the first note.

The Clash was my gateway drug to punk rock, along with the Sex Pistols, way back in about 1980 or so. Along with “Never Mind The Bollocks…”, the self titled first album (the North American version, the superior version—for once—with Clash City Rockers and White Man In Hammersmith Palais, in addition to a brilliant cover of I Fought The Law) was my introduction to what we used to call “punk”. Then came the Ramones, the Damned, 999 and a host of other British acts. After that I gobbled up every punk album and compilation I could lay my hands on, the more obscure the better. Nomeansno, the DK’s, Black Flag, DRI, Angry Samoans, The Exploited (OI!!), Asexuals, Forgotten Rebels, The wonderful Stranglers, Sham 69, Teenage Head, Stiff Little Fingers, Bad Brains, D.O.A., The Misfits and a whole host of other so-called “hardcore” bands. But The Clash remained in rotation until overexposure led to over familiarity and, coupled with my obsession to move forward, musically speaking, eventually knocked them back to their place on the shelf in my library for at least a decade.

I recently dug their albums out of hibernation and was surprised at a couple of things: how “un-punk” they really were (even the debut is more power-pop than punk) and how much I still enjoy them. They were never content with staying within one genre, a trait I really admired. Jazz, pop, rockabilly, reggae/dub/ska, even a bit of disco colored their records. For years and years Sandinista remained my “go-to” Clash album because of the sheer variety and musical invention contained within that triple album. A few knock-offs, but pound for pound I think it’s just as consistently good as London Calling. Charlie Don’t Surf, Washington Bullets, The Call Up and The Magnificent Seven are just four of the tracks off Sandinista that rank with the best the band ever released. Recently, though, it’s the debut that’s been kicking my butt. “I’m So Bored With The USA” is the sole dated sounding track on an otherwise still perfect album.

Here’s The Clash discography, in order of importance, in my humble little opinion:

London Calling

Sandinista!

The Clash

Combat Rock

Give ‘Em Enough Rope

…and, an album you must avoid at all costs:

Cut The Crap

If you’re an alien and don’t have at least three of these albums in your record collection you may want to start with “The Essential Clash”, their best compilation album.

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