Combat Rock (The Clash / 1982)
And now for something completely different: here’s my song-by-song review of The Clash’s underrated 1982 LP, Combat Rock.
1. “Know Your Rights”
“This is a public service announcement…With guitars!” The Clash became more overtly political as their career went on, but there’s nothing wrong with that, right? They still rock as hard as they did on “White Riot.” I absolutely love the repetitive, single-note guitar riff.
2. “Car Jammin’”
Better Jamaican dub than what you would find in Jamaica.
3. “Should I Stay or Should I Go”
The “big hit,” as they say in the biz. Great division in the arrangements—guitar, bass, drums and vocals have a perfect amount of space between them. Title question is never answered.
4. “Rock the Casbah”
The Clash make a song you can shake yer ass and boogie your hips to. Or drop bombs to. “Rock the Casbah” is a song for all occasions—dance-floors and Operation Desert Storm.
5. “Red Angel Dragnet”
Sandinista! had some bad songs, but that was OK because the entire album was over 2 hours—the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. “Red Angel Dragnet” is a bad song that sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s too long to be a throwaway, but you’ll end up skipping it nine times out of ten.
6. “Straight to Hell”
Every time I listen to this one, I become more and more convinced that this is The Clash’s greatest song ever. Or is it just because I love “Paper Planes” so much?
7. “Overpowered by Funk (feat. Futura 2000)”
Would fit right in on Prince’s 1999, which was released the same year, yet only The Clash were cool enough to feature a rapping graffiti artist.
8. “Atom Tan”
If you were drawn in by “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah,” then you have probably realized at this point that Combat Rock is a pretty weird, little album. Actually, the electronic sound effects in “Rock the Casbah” should have tipped you off.
9. “Sean Flynn”
No matter how un-Clash and un-punk The Clash get—ambient flutes, wailing guitars, jazz bass—the pounding rhythm of the drums always keep things in familiar ground.
10. “Ghetto Defendant”
Your enjoyment of this tune will depend on your enjoyment of the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, whose voice is sampled throughout. I’d say Howl is as much Ginsberg as I’ll ever need.
11. “Inoculated City”
Catchy, melodic, political—coulda been a hit if it wasn’t for the last part. Shoulda cut “Red Angel Dragnet” and just let this one play on for three more minutes instead.
12. “Death is a Star”
The last song of The Clash’s “classic” line-up. Its anticlimactic nature and defiantly un-Clash-ness (not even drums in this one) is a perfect curtain call for The Only Band That Ever Mattered.