The Clash

Combat Rock

"Not tear gas nor baton charge that stops you taking the city"

Ghetto Defendant


The Album

Combat Rock was released in 1982, and was, pretty much, the Clash's last album. Not counting Cut The Crap, but that was recorded by a corpse, not a band.

It's also probably the Clash's most neglected album; everybody admits that The Clash and London Calling were classics, that Give 'Em Enough Rope was great, and that Sandinista! was patchy and messy, but Combat Rock is rarely considered; and when it is, people just think of the two hit singles, Rock The Casbah and Should I Stay Or Should I Go. There's a lot more to the album than those two songs; more compact and focused than it's predecessor, Combat Rock includes rap (and years before Aerosmith and Run DMC got into bed together), funk, reggae, 50's-style rockabilly, some kind of tribal jazz, new wave....and all in just twelve songs.

It's an amazing accomplishment, IMHO, especially if you consider the turmoil the band were in at the time; Topper was becoming more and more dependant on heroin (and wasn't brought on the tour following the album's release, being replaced by Terry Chimes, aka Tory Crimes); Mick was coked out of his head most of the time, and in major disagreement with Joe over the band's musical direction; Joe wanted to continue to explore black music as on Sandinista!, where as Mick favored the classic rock sound suggested by Should I Stay Or Should I Go. As many bands do in times of turmoil (cf the Manics circa The Holy Bible), the Clash adopted a military dress code, best illustrated by the video for Rock The Casbah.

The songs

  • Know Your Rights
    One of the most overtly political songs Joe had written since their debut album, this storming rockabilly number is a great opener to the album - "This is a public service announcement! With guitars!"
  • Car Jamming
    This is a really fun kinda reggae-ish number, based in one of the two main settings for most of the songs, urban America, the other setting being east-Asian jungles. While stuck in traffic Joe thinks he spots Lauren Bacall. Kinda dumb, but in a good way.
  • Should I Stay Or Should I Go
    Mick Jones' "classic rock" track. It kinda pissed Joe off a bit, so himself and Joe Ely got the Ecuadorian engineer to phone his mother to get the lyrics translated to Spanish, with the intention of echoing Mick's every word. Mick wouldn't stand for this at all, but some of the Spanish vocals were put in, and they sound pretty cool.
  • Rock The Casbah
    Nice new-wavey-dancey number, with a slightly mad video. See its node for more details.
  • Red Angel Dragnet
    Odd rant about New York's troup of Guardian Angels, featuring Kosmo Vinyl pretending to be Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle. Moves along at a funny, juddering kinda pace. This song was once quoted by Quizro and dem bones in the topic...
  • Straight To Hell
    Absolute classic song, which seems to be about Asian emigrants. Features Joe beating the bass drum with a lemonade bottle wrapped in a towel, and a bossa nova beat, according to Topper.
  • Overpowered By Funk
    Something of a throwaway funky-dancey tune, the funniest thing about this is grafitti artist Futura 2000's rudimentary rap. Quite amusing, but still kinda ground-breaking in it's own way.
  • Atom Tan
    Joe and Mick trade lines about Hollywood and America in general over a slow-burning rock track. Nice.
  • Sean Flynn
    This song is just plain...different. It's kinda jazzy and kinda oriental at the same time, and the contrast and combination of bamboo flutes and saxophone is kinda thrilling. The song itself is about Errol Flynn's son, lost in the Cambodian jungles.
  • Ghetto Defendant
    The tail of an urban junkie, narrated by Joe Strummer, assisted by Allen Ginsberg. The combination of Ginsberg's spoken-word part and the edgy backing track gives the song a pretty eerie feeling.
  • Inoculated City
    A strange anti-military song, with some cool harmonies from Joe and Mick. Has an odd sample seemingly taken from an add for toilet cleaner.
  • Death Is A Star
    Possibly the most unlikely song they've ever recorded, this is almost a crooner. An incredibly cinematic lyric accompanied by an atmospheric piano-and-strings arrangement, this is the tail of the Phantom of Love, stalking a newly married couple..."The phantom slips in to spill blood even on the sweetest honeymoon". They probably should have split up straight afterwards, and this would have provided the ideal, and probably most unexpected, end for one of the greatest bands of all time.


    Interesting review of the album.
    Should be your first port of call when researching music writeups!
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