Released 11 days before Christmas in 1979 The Clash released what is widely regarded as their best album London Calling. Further than this, the album is also considered as one of the best albums of all time.
I disagree with this and prefer the bands more one dimensional debut LP. That said, London Calling is still a terrific album.
Featuring a wide range of styles the third album by The Clash is also quite unconventional in length and physical make-up. A double LP, not in a gatefold sleeve, running at just over an hour.
I really can’t get far into this review without mentioning the sleeve. The album cover is arguably the best sleeve of all-time. The image of Paul Simonon smashing his guitar onstage in black and white captures something words cannot. The writing parodies / copies the debut album by Elvis Presley. I’m not sure if this is Punk mockery or homage, either way it looks great.
London Calling peaked at Number 9 in the U.K. album charts. I’m sure it has subsequently sold well for a sustained period.
London Calling has a doomy marching sound. The Clash instantly sound more mature than before. Despite its gloomy themes it kicks off the album in style.
Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor) is a cover of a song most people will know. The sound is accessible and The Clash can clearly play.
Jimmy Jazz is a mournful sound. The song is well structured and the maturity is underlined. Moving away from the Punk of the first album and the heavier sound of Give ‘Em Enough Rope this moves into standard rock n roll territory.
Hateful sounds anything but (hateful). A positive sounding song and catchy with it too.
Rudie Can’t Fail moves into Pop territory. Light and upbeat The Clash hold a tune well.
Spanish Bombs has more depth than the previous song. Near acoustic strums add to a backdrop of The Spanish Civil War.
The Right Profile is a track you can imagine The Clash playing on Later With Jools Holland. A very full sound with an even fuller ensemble. Is this really a punk band?
Lost In The Supermarket sees Mick Jones pen arguably the best track on the LP so far. Outrageously catchy. Cynical Pop at its best.
Clampdown immediately snatches the best track on the album so far title away. Punchy. Catchy. Triumphant. It’s a damn brilliant song. “It’s the best years of your life they want to steal”.
Guns Of Brixton continues this rich form and is possibly an ever better song still. Dub that years later Beats International would lift all the way to Number 1 in the U.K. Singles Chart (Dub Be Good To Me).
Wrong Em Boyo with its traditional arrangement walks genres and again is a song you can imagine Jools Holland pulling up his piano for.
Death Or Glory is another superbly structured song. Not quite rock, not quite punk, not quite pop – The Clash sound like no other band – and it’s a great sound.
Koka Kola has a cool intro. Fast paced Strummer and Jones interject vocally and the blend is again, unique.
The Card Cheat sees the vocals pushed into the backround. They’re still there but the instrumentation illustrates how far musically The Clash have come in such a short time.
Lovers Rock is a lesson in soft hookery. Late night sounds perfect for chilling.
Four Horsemen keeps with the overall sound of London Calling. Strummer always sound brittle and angry vocally. This venom adds to middle ground songs musically such as this one. A searing guitar tries to break out towards the end which adds to the already existant dynamism.
I’m Not Down is a defiant stab at glory. A very strong song even though the album peaked quite a while ago.
Revolution Rock stirs the imagination. Ska sounds delivered very well.
Train In Vain (Stand By Me) is yet another very well structured pop / ska crossover song. It closes London Calling. Maybe this is their best album after all…