The Clash rain fire and brimstonewith a laugh. Give' Em Enough Rope, their second album (The Clash, released in the U.K. in 1977, remains unissued here, as do several remarkable singles that appear on neither LP), is a rocker's assault on the Real World in the grand tradition of Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed and Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols.
Produced by Sandy Pearlman, an American brought in by CBS and who's best known for his sometimes muddy work with Blue Öyster Cult, Give'... Read More
Em Enough Rope's sound seems suppressed: the highs aren't there, and the presence of the band is thinner than it ought to be. The record doesn't jump.
But the producer's concept comes throughaccessible hard rockand nothing has been gussied up. The Clash's attack is still fast and noisy (straight English punk), but with lyrical accents cracking the rough surface (straight English punk with a grip on the future). The band's vision of public lifethe sense that there's more to life than pleasure and safetyis uncompromised, and so is the humor that keeps that vision from degenerating into a set of slogans, that keeps it full of questions and honest doubt. Imagine the Who's "I Can't Explain" as a statement about a world in flames, not a lover's daze, and you've got the idea.
Formed just after the emergence of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, from their first gigs, were second only to Rotten & Company as punk headmen. Where the Pistols pursued nihilism, the Clash affirmed rebellion; if Johnny Rotten really did sound like the Antichrist, Clash lead singer Joe Strummer railed in the voice of a streetfighter. It wasn't Armageddon he called up, simply the next battle. The point of the Clash's early "London's Burning" wasn't just to cheer the fire. Despite the thoughtfulness that had to go into "White Riot" and a cover of Junior Murvin's reggae hit, "Police and Thieves"both cut in 1977 as attempts at solidarity with the angry West Indians of England's slumsthere was a certain intentional dumbness to the Clash's style: a way of saying they knew no more than anyone else, but it hadn't stopped them from stepping out to take the heat and give it back. They defined punk populismthey made it sound at once like a test of valor and a real good time.
Today, in England, the Clash are something of a myth: perhaps the last band to promise that something other than the fate of their own career is hanging on a new release. Give 'Em Enough Rope entered the U.K. charts at Number Two. Though a sniveling backlash has hit them in the British pop press, there's no question that a lot of hopes, symbolic and otherwise, are riding on the group: If the album sells, does that mean the spirit is there to make society change a little faster? If the album is good, does that mean life will be a little richer? In the U.S.A., the Clash remain no more than a potent rumorw