Volume 96, Issue 13
Thursday September 19, 2002

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OUTSIDE THE BOX: Clash of cultures

By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff

People who know very little about former British punk-rockers The Clash should know you've got to look beyond songs like "Train in Vain" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" to get the real essence of the band.

They just might not know how far back to look.

The Clash's debut album, simply titled The Clash, precedes both the fluff of their later years and classic songs like "London Calling" and "Radio Clash" that are still recognized as legendary punk anthems.

As with so many bands, The Clash's initial effort stands as their best. The Clash is drenched with the anger, aggression and calls for social change that marked the punk revolution of the late '70s in the United Kingdom.

What truly makes this a watershed album is the melodic reggae beats and riffs woven into the songs. Clearly, Joe Strummer and the boys listened to a little Bob Marley in their day, as they do a masterful job of incorporating aspects of reggae into their music on songs like "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and "Police and Thieves" without betraying reggae's, or their own, roots.

The beauty of this album is that within the forceful guitar and drums are piercing, socially insightful lyrics. In short, The Clash gives it to you straight with lyrics like, "I hate Englishmen/ just as bad as Wops," "Why not phone up Robin Hood and ask him for some wealth distribution" and perhaps the most appropriately titled song ever, "I'm so bored with the U.S.A.."

All you really need to know about this album is summed up by the band on the last track: "We're a garage band/ we come from garage land." Countless other bands have tried to make this their creed in the 25 years since The Clash was released, but few have done it anywhere near as genuinely as The Clash did on their blazing first album.

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