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The Clash

Sound System (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Sept. 20, 2013

Box Sets

The Clash

Sound System (Sony Legacy)

In 1976, the Clash was three UK art students and a scab drummer patched together by a cohort of Sex Pistols' manager Malcolm McLaren and directed to "write about what you know." They would warp history as the last truly heroic band rock & roll's seen. Punk couldn't contain them, and a late bid for stardom destroyed them within 18 months. Sound System presents the complete Clash, lovingly remastered on six discs, comprising the five studio LPs the classic lineup released between 1977 and 1982, plus a 3-CD set featuring non-LP singles and B-sides. A DVD unspools archival footage, plus every video. The sonic upgrade sounds best on the earliest material: vicious 45s "White Riot," "Complete Control," and the self-titled debut. Anthems of London's Seventies emergency state, "Career Opportunities" and "London's Burning," no longer sound recorded under a cardboard box. Blue Öyster Cult Svengali Sandy Pearlman lent a widescreen/Technicolor production to Give 'Em Enough Rope as the band's focus broadened to world geopolitics. Apex London Calling (1979) took in American roots – rockabilly, soul, Phil Spector – and deeper absorption of the reggae they all worshipped. Meantime, songwriting introduced topics including the Spanish Civil War ("Spanish Bombs") and actor Montgomery Clift ("The Right Profile"). Punk's all but gone come schizophrenic triple LP Sandinista!, which added nascent hip-hop ("The Magnificent Seven") and dub ("One More Dub"). With Combat Rock, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were writing hits ("Rock the Casbah," "Should I Stay or Should I Go," featuring Joe Ely), but brilliant drummer Topper Headon was on smack. They now sold millions, but the heart was gone.

*****

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