I remember going to the cinema to see The Return Of The King, and being very excited at the prospect, particularly after the all-action brilliance of The Two Towers. After three hours of the third and final instalment of Frodo and co., I emerged from the cinema, legs aching, but disappointed it had finished… well, disappointed at the amount of times it finished, anyway. Peter Jackson, obviously unsure how to end such an epic trilogy, decided to avoid a tricky decision by choosing 27 endings for the same film, resulting in perhaps the most frustrating half an hour of cinema I’ve ever sat through.
What has this got to do with The Clash, you might ask? Well, London Calling, the band’s most celebrated album, has The Return Of The King syndrome: if it was thirty minutes shorter, it would be a hell of a lot better. A bit of a cack-handed way to make a point, I know, but in my defence, at least I didn’t start talking about The White Album, which is the usual go-to reference for double albums that could have been singles. Personally, I don’t think that The Beatles needed to shorten their effort, but I can’t help but feel that The Clash should’ve. After track twelve (Death or Glory), all the initial energy seems to peter out, and making it through to the last track is somewhat of an effort, which is a shame, given how impressive the first dozen tracks are. Still, I’m sure many people will disagree.
As it is, London Calling is a fantastic album, even if I did start losing interest long before it came to a conclusion. To refer to it as a Punk album would be doing it a disservice, for the nineteen tracks span Reggae, Ska, Funk, Soul, Rockabilly, and straight out Rock ‘n’ Roll (the front cover even mimics Elvis Presley’s debut album). When they do tackle Punk, they do so with a stronger sense of melody than their contemporaries, and undoubtedly with a greater sense of lyrical talent. Bands like Green Day owe a permanent debt of gratitude to Strummer et al., for without them, their brand of Punk-Pop almost certainly wouldn’t have existed. Excellent, guitar work throughout, a strong rhythm section, and Strummer’s drawled, immediately loveable vocal make this a great listen.