The Clash – London Calling (1979)

the-clash

*****

I hate double albums. One of the worst trends in music since the fall of vinyl is the over-lengthening of LPs. The best ones are typically about 10 songs long and no more than 40 minutes in length; just enough time to hook the listener and deliver memorable songs before tiring with a litany of tracks that all sound the same. All too often, long albums are a detriment to the music and artists that release them as the great, 5-star cuts have to compete with the lesser tracks that tarnish the overall work. However, there are rare occasions when an artist creates so much great music in a short span of time that their album simply has to be lengthened. In all the rich history of Rock music, London Calling is the best example of this.

A few days ago I included the entirety of London Calling in my Burnes’ Turns playlist because I couldn’t pick just one track to highlight. That’s because this album is, quite simply, perfect. Even though many of the tracks stem from the same Ska roots (which The Clash basically invented with the release of this album), there is an impressive amount variety for a 19-song epic that was recorded in a mere five weeks. The joyful bounce of “Jimmy Jazz” clashes fiercely with the ominous “Guns of Brixton” despite the two tracks’ similar beats. The stately pomp of “Clampdown” is far removed from the Rockabilly-influenced “Brand New Caddilac.” “Rudie Can’t Fail” would be the best song on any other album, but how can you say it’s better than the forlorn jomp of “Hateful”? You can’t. Because they’re all equally perfect. The opening title track and the closer “Train in Vain” get all the praise, but there isn’t a soft spot in any of the masterwork’s 17 other tracks. The Clash successfully turned what is typically a weakness into a great triumph. And as I listen to some of the greatest music of all time in these classic albums and Rolling Stone‘s Top 500 Songs, the energy that pervades every track of London Calling runs circles around all of them before hitting them over the head with a guitar and riding off into the way-out-o-sphere of “Revolution Rock.” Revolutionary indeed.

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