Toby Goldstein

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

The Clash began their career in 1976 as an opening act for the Sex Pistols in Britain's punk cellars. At the time they were raw, directed, and angry. Since then they have become a lot more polished, but their aim at selected targets is still arrow straight, and they're angrier than ever.

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Their first LP, "The Clash,"… sounded like it had been recorded in a laundry room with a buzz saw as the featured instrument. Through the garbled production emerged such songs as … London's Burning and I'm So Bored with the U.S.A.—just the sort of pleasantries that corporate ears love to hear. The album became a U.K. best-seller and an import favorite….

[They] remained true to the uncompromising nature of both their music and politics, issuing such singles as Complete Control, Clash City Rockers, and Capitol Radio….

All of these are powerful songs you should know by heart, but you've probably never heard them since the Clash have been anonymous in the U.S. until now. Not that CBS's meager debut campaign for "Give 'Em Enough Rope" should improve matters much. A music trade has called the LP an important New Wave product, but only in small print way in the back pages…. [The] Clash will not have an easy time of it in the U.S. There is no media charmer like the Pistols' Johnny Rotten in this group, and Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simenon, and Nicky "Topper" Headon don't extend themselves to the press. Currently split from their manager, their direction lies in their own hands….

The Clash are not above using a riff from, for instance, the Who's I Can't Explain and turning it into the foundation of Guns on the Roof—a documentation of several group members' arrest for shooting pigeons. Their delivery is as ugly as the reality they depict. The rhythm section of Simenon and Headon is relentless and over it Strummer's voice is as gravelly as the city dump. As if to reinforce their own goal of straight-forwardness, they changed the title of the album's conclusion from That's No Way to Spend Your Youth to All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts), acknowledging in one line Mott the Hoople, Ian Dury, and their breakup with management. In the Hoople's case, "all the young dudes carry the news." But on "Give 'Em Enough Rope," all the young punks make the news—even if they hang themselves in the process.

Toby Goldstein, "The Clash: The Quietest Debut in Corporate History," in High Fidelity, Vol. 29, No. 2, February, 1979, p. 114.

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