Good evening from the towers…how goes it then? I’m just working on some reports and thought I should say hello. Currently listening to British Sea Power and eagerly awaiting their new album. Have you ever seen them live? If not then do so on my recommendation and if you don’t enjoy it I’ll need to know why. They’re playing all over Europe in the coming months and kicking off at the Shepherds Bush Empire tomorrow (April 17) so check their website for details.
In a very strange way they remind me of The Clash for the simple reason that musically they do exactly what they want. Any semblance of a formulatic approach to their albums is happily not in existence. Their sound keeps changing in keeping with them maturing and yet they keep releasing brilliant records. Much like The Clash in that respect if not in others. If you don’t know them start with the debut and follow the career in order, you know, the proper way.
It’s hard to reflect back thirty odd years and I know I didn’t have the listening experience to make much sense of it all when I was 12 or 13 years of age but what The Clash did to us as listeners was remarkable. There were obvious sonic difference between the first two albums but much of that would be due to the production. What was it that Sandy Pearlman said about Give ‘Em Enough Rope -
‘this album will have more guitars per square inch than anything in history’
He wasn’t far wrong to be honest. When you listen to the second album in detail now it’s everything the first album isn’t in terms of layers, volume and overall amounts of ‘busy’. For the production alone some people drop it down a few pegs on there list of favourite Clash albums but at the same time a poll we ran before said it kicks off with the best opening to any Clash album. That’s with some bloody stiff competition too. Beyond all that G’EER is full of great songs.
London Calling remains my first still vivid memory of getting a Clash album right upon release and being amazed at how much music was there in terms of quantity (I believe it was my first ever double album) and variety too. I was far too young to say ‘oh look, The Clash are throwing all of their collective heritage into the cooker and seeing what they bake up’. I just knew I’d never heard anything like it and it was just as amazing as the debut record for totally different reasons. Even if you revisit it today you’d be hard pressed to group the nineteen tracks within less than six or seven styles, it really was that brave and ambitious. With hindsight and learning more over the years the attitude was more ‘backs against the wall, we’ve nothing to lose’. It was with that sentiment that saw The Clash become far more than just another punk band and also allowed them the license to take (most of) their listeners on a journey that saw the changes come even more bizarre and simultaneously fascinating.
Which brings me back to my opening point. Find a band that you’re committed to and follow that journey. There are few things as exciting as following a band who aren’t scared to taking chances and always surprising the listener. The truth is it fails more often than it succeeds, most bands I’ve loved seem to peak somwhere between their second and third release but when you find a band that keeps you hooked into their maturing phase it’s a brilliant journey.
Are you able to remember your feelings when you bought each album? I was dedicated to side 1 and 2 of London Calling for the better part of six months and with Sandinsta! it was sides 1 and 3. I was a bit overwhelmed with that one at the time but as I’ve written before it’s become the album I return to with ever increasing frequency as I’ve aged. Combat Rock always seemed a bit of a letdown as a single album, my appetite was spoiled and it seemed somehow less ambitious, the first Clash record that sounded a bit like an obligation. I was also alarmed that everyone loved it…people who really didn’t ‘get’ The Clash were really into it. What a path we took and one that never gets old.