CD Review of The Singles by The Clash

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The Singles
starstarstarno starno star Label: Sony/BMG
Released: 2007
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Ooooh, another Clash CD! is probably what a lot of people are thinking. “Oooooh,” more budget-minded Clash fans will say, “a better way to acquire the Clash singles than the 19-CD, $80 compilation the band released last year.” The more jaded, original punks who liked this stuff when it first came out probably would be the closest to correct: It’s the 17th greatest-hits collection from the seminal British band, and who gives a crap?

Turns out there are a few reasons to do another Clash singles compilation, tenuous as they may be. First, a lot of kids are discovering them for the first time via new pop-punk or even ska bands, who pay homage to the Clash night after night from the stage. Rancid almost, but not quite, is Clash 2.0, the true heirs to the politic-reggae-punk genre, while others attempt less accurate recreations. The Clash’s endearing—and enduring—socialist political rantings are the first connection many teenagers and college kids have to actual liberal leanings that make any sense to them whatsoever (damn, put even George Bush’s mindless ramblings to the “White Riot” beat and even he’d probably get a few votes). Before a thinking music fan hears the Clash, political talk amounts to so much mumbo jumbo; "everybody smash up your seat and r-r-rock to this brand new beat!" is quite the new sensation that gets the blood pumping and the ideas flowing. To instill a political conscience into millions of grubby, sweaty punks who care not much further than the next beer--now that's an accomplishment, and quantifies the Clash's charisma and explains why we're talking about yet another singles compilation decades after the band broke up.

The last justification for coming out with this disc: If you’re a Clash fan, five to one says you don’t think ahead and back up your MP3s. Or the CDs don’t play so well after they’re dropped on the kitchen floor when whipping up the Mick-tinis or whatever mixed drinks you serve in Styrofoam cups at your Punk Night parties. Whatever the reason, the essential hits are all here, 18 A-sides from the box set and the U.S. promo-only single “Groovy Times,” and of course “Train in Vain,” a track so allegedly secret that it was a huge hit in the States (please, can we stop calling it “hidden,” “secret,” “bonus track” or whatever and just call it “well-marketed by ignoring it, a classic punk-style ruse?”). It’s great material, nothing we haven’t heard before, but you can bet—it still rocks hard and reminds us just how great a punk band could be, especially when it occasionally took that left turn into reggae with cuts like "White Man in Hammersmith Palais," and "Bankrobber." You jaded old Clash fans, you'll even buy it when you're ambling through HMV or wherever and the strong, hard beat of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" or "Clash City Rockahs" comes over that booming PA system...for the grandkids. C'mon, it's the Clash!

~Mojo Flucke, PhD