Music Reviews, Non-Fiction

The Clash – Hits Back

Hits-Back2The Clash are busy. Two new collections are released this month. Here. Louder Than War reviews Hits Back for you.

Having a Clash compilation to review should be easy. I’ve been listening to them, been inspired by them, ever since I heard my older brother playing them over 30 years ago. These are songs that have stayed with me all those years: ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’, ‘Garageland’, ‘Armagideon Times’, ‘White Riot’ and ‘Straight To Hell’, to name but a few. A look at the track list and I know it will be 10/10, so why do I have misgivings?

The remaining Clash members are busy promoting the release of Sound System (a hefty collection of all things Clash (bar Cut The Crap – airbrushed out of the orthodox Clash canon)) plus loads of ‘fun’ extras. Like dog tags and badges. It’s released simultaneously on 9th September with a best of 2CD release, which is the CD we at Louder Than War have been sent to review.

Hits Back has 33 tracks. The first 24 tracks are sequenced from the set list the band played at the Brixton Fairdeal show in 1982, with an added 8 tracks; it contains songs from across the 5 studio albums and singles.

As the remaining Clash members put it: “Every show was different. Joe would spend a lot of time composing the running order, considering dynamics, emotional impact and the key the songs were in. This record is based on Joe’s set list from The Casbah Club UK Tour, Brixton Fairdeal, 10th July 1982.” Mick, Paul and Topper.

Almost every song on the CD is a stone cold classic. Many of them I haven’t listened to in a while and they sound great, and, perhaps more importantly, still relevant. ‘White Man’ seems to grow in stature over the years; this was the song I played when I heard Joe Strummer had died (Jesus, was it really nearly 11 years ago?) and it brought tears to my eyes. ‘Armagideon Times’ is the best white reggae I’ve ever heard. Songs like ‘White Riot’ and ‘I Fought The Law’ stir this ageing punk into action. ‘Garageland’ still bristles with teenage egotism and fuck you attitude. ‘Straight To Hell’ is an intricate sounding lament that sends shivers down my spine. ‘Should I Stay’ is just straight out great rock ‘n’ roll.

 

This is one of many compilation Clash CDs – as well as a couple of live albums – that have been released over the years, along with a multitude of merchandise ranging from coffee table books, posters, badges and t-shirts. What we’ve seen is the turning of one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands to walk this earth into mythic status. And the reason for this? To make money for the corporate gods of the music business (in this case Sony – “Give me Honda, give me Sony: so cheap and real phoney”). Now I’m quite happy to put money into Jones, Headon and Simonon’s pockets – they have given me so much that I’m happy to give something back – but I don’t want to feed the corporate maw.

To be fair to Jones, Headon and Simenon they have always shied away from the spotlight and rarely commented on their time together. Indeed, thank God, there was no McCartneyesque attempt by Jones to turn Strummer/Jones into Jones/Strummer as McCartney did with the song credits of his dead song writing partner. They just got on with their lives as the myth about the band was built up by those who would profit from it. 

The Clash are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band Britain has produced. But they were human. They weren’t perfect. Let’s explode the myth. For a start, let’s not forget that some old time punks have never forgiven them for signing to CBS. Sell out, they did cry! Turning rebellion into money? The Shea Stadium gig? Many forget they were supporting The Who – a band considered old farts when the punks started. Coolest band on the planet? Have you seen what they were wearing for ‘The Call Up’ video? During the run up to Combat Rock being released, with poor tour sales, Bernie Rhodes and Strummer decided that, as a publicity stunt to drum up interest, Strummer would ‘go missing’. Strummer then turned the tables on Rhodes by actually disappearing. Publicity stunts? Poor ticket sales? Is this the history of a mythic band?  

Get out your bullshit detector and don’t let anybody re-write history. Don’t let them take The Clash from being an inspiration to a generation into being a myth. Once The Clash are turned into a myth then they can be turned into anything the corporations want and sold to you over and over again.

The silver lining to this is that maybe, just maybe, some sixteen year old kid will buy this CD and hear the Clash for the first time and be inspired.

The Clash weren’t the only band that mattered, but God how we miss them.

The Clash official website here

The Clash on Facebook here

The Clash on Twitter here

 

This article first appeared on Louder Than War

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Music Reviews, Non-Fiction

The Otherness: The Other Side Of Rock

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Once upon a time rock ruled the airwaves and the charts.

Once upon a time rock was only taken seriously if it was performed by American or British bands.

Much has been written about the death of rock. Personally I’ve always felt rock should be out on the edge of culture, that it should appeal to the outcasts and the disenfranchised, to the teenager in all of us. So I say let rock become a sub-culture, and let the masses enjoy their X-Factor shit.

It’s also something of a myth that rock is only good when performed by Americans or British bands. The French have always had a great rock scene that largely goes ignored by English speaking countries because, well, they sing in French and English speaking people tend to be the laziest of language linguists. Go digging in other countries rock strata and you’ll find gold. Which brings me to The Otherness.

The Otherness hail from Argentina and play music that streams direct from the early Sixties, mixed with early punk, and a smidgeon of ‘80s alternative. It’s hard to pin them down exactly – which is how it should be. Who wants generic? We use musical genres in order to stereotype and to make it easy for us to stay in a rut. It’s like the Amazon mantra: if you like this, you’ll like this. Well, bollocks to that. Try something new every day.

All I know from listening to The Otherness is they make my foot tap and feel good. Their rhythms bounce along beautifully and lyrically they invoke sun-drenched ghettos.

Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered them as they had back across the ocean to Argentina after a tour of the UK. But I’m informed that they are heading back for gigs/festivals in 2014 and will definitely be taking time to check them out live. You should too.

Do yourself a favour and check them out.

The Otherness on Facebook

The Otherness on Twitter

The Otherness on Soundcloud

Music Reviews, Non-Fiction

Jeffrey Lewis & The Rain: WWPRD EP

WWPRD EP

Jeffrey Lewis new release – WWPRD – celebrates Pussy Riot and calls on all artists to take a moral stand.

Pussy Riot became a cause célèbre in 2012 when they were jailed for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in Russia. But the celebres in questions were the punk hegemony, not the celebrities of the mass media. Coming out in public to support a band called Pussy Riot, who used guerrilla tactics to bring their feminist agenda to the attention of the authorities, and who use punk rock to vent their anger at Putin (now a friend of the West), would be too much for the fake, vapid celebrities of the day. So it’s left to people like Jeffrey Lewis to bring Pussy Riot’s plight to our attention, and also to celebrate their sacrifice.

Jeffrey Lewis and The Rain released ‘WWPRD EP’ on 26th August. WWPRD stands for What Would Pussy Riot Do? With rap lyrics bouncing between Lewis and his band (reminiscent of his Crass covers album 10 Crass Songs) it’s a conscience call to all artists to reconsider their motives when taking that sponsorship deal or wearing those sneakers or sunglasses pushed upon them by Corporations. Lewis tells them to ask themselves WWPRD? And do they really think there’s no cost for taking those deals?  is a call to artists who sell out to reconsider their motives and actions. Many people will think this is naive and idealistic, but fuck it, give me idealism over cynicism anytime. And Jeffrey Lewis walks the walk.

 

Lewis is the classic DIY artist who has never had to compromise to a record label or promoter, because he does it all himself and does very well thank you very much without anybody’s help. His records are distributed through Rough Trade. There is no artistic restraint on him. He organises his own tours. If he needs somewhere to kip down in a city then he appeals for people to put him up for the night over Facebook or Twitter. He publishes his own comic books. He shows it can be done without selling out.

Lewis probably considers himself a hippy, but I think of him as more punk than most so-called punk bands. His DIY ethic shows all artists the way they could go. And Pussy Riot should be all artists’ moral conscience.

It’s easy to forget how rock music, and in particular Punk Rock, can upset the authorities. Listening to the Sex Pistols music now it’s hard to believe that the authorities were actually afraid there was going to be some sort of anarchist revolution. Pussy Riot, regardless of what you think of their actual music, remind us the power music can have.

Buy this record. Turn it up loud. Remind yourself that music can be more than just a great tune or to dance to. It can actually mean something and change the way you view the world.

As  Lewis says on WWPRD: the world needs more punk rock heroes. Amen to that.

 

You can purchase the download or physical single here:

http://store.roughtraderecords.com/Store/JeffreyLewisAndTheRainWWPRD.html

Jeffrey Lewis website: http://www.thejeffreylewissite.com                 

This article first appeared on Louder Than War 05/09/2013:

http://louderthanwar.com/jeffrey-lewis-wwprd-ep/