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The Clash - Combat Rock

The Clash - Combat Rock

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180 Gram Digital Remaster

From Allmusic Guide:

When the Clash began recording a follow-up to the ambitious triple-album Sandinista!, they were a band in turmoil. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones were barely speaking, Topper Headon was falling into addiction, and the record label was demanding a hit. The tension and miscommunication between bandmembers got so bad that they ended up working in different studios on vocals and overdubs, each pursuing slightly different ideas. Inspired by old interests like raucous punk, jumped-up rock & roll, and spooky dub, they also folded in rap, spoken word (courtesy of Allen Ginsberg), world music, and disco on the way to Combat Rock. It was almost a double-length effort, thanks to Jones' personal mix of the album. Titled Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, it featured songs that stretched out to epic length and downplayed some of the band's inherent energy and impact in favor of avant-garde atmosphere. To the rest of the group, it sounded too much like Sandinista!, so they decided to hire big-name producer Glyn Johns to do a more commercial mix. Working with Strummer, he edited the songs severely, bringing the guitars and vocals forward in the mix, taking out most of the odd sound effects Jones had gleefully mixed in, and smoothing off the rough edges. The resulting straight-ahead revamp gave the band their two biggest hits ("Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Rock the Casbah") but luckily for fans who admired the band's quest to push the limits of punk, it retained enough left-of-center artistic vision and violence to make it interesting. Setting the singles aside, it's a dark album lyrically with Strummertortured by visions of Vietnam, gripped by the cacophonous big-city mania of N.Y.C., and desperate to translate his angry politics to the masses. He cuts right to the heart of things on "Know Your Rights," ranting like a bug-eyed preacher over a raucous rockabilly riff and Headon's punishing beat. It's one of the tracks where Johns' slimmed-down and pumped-up mix works the best as Strummer and co. fairly explode out of the speakers in a blast of fury. Elsewhere, the knife is slipped in a little more subtly on restrained songs like "Ghetto Defendant," which sports some amazing Ginsberg-as-toaster vibes over a rollicking reggae rhythm. "Straight to Hell" is another track served by the cleaned-up mix, grooving tightly and feeding the effects in with precision. There are a few songs that do sound a little undercooked -- "Overpowered by Funk" is a poor cousin to "Radio Clash" and "Atom Tan" is slight compared to the rest of the album -- but these are minor stumbles that are easy to overlook. Even with a slick, radio-ready mix, Combat Rock has all the drama, hooks, fervor, and sonic terrorism one might expect from a Clash record. It covers old ground with almost gleeful energy, stakes out new territory with confidence, and delivers more than enough timeless classics to make it stand proudly next to any of their earlier work.

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