The Clash - Give 'em Enough Rope
The Clash had pretty much set the standard for British punk rock with their self-titled debut album. The question was, could they sustain it? Their second album was hotly anticipated, none more so than by the UK's premier music magazine, the New Musical Express. At the time, the NME had thrown in its lot wholeheartedly with the punk scene. Punk was the "now" music and they were not ashamed to say that as far as they were concerned everyone else was shit. And when it came to the NME's poster boys, well the Clash were out there by a mile.
The issue of the album was delayed, apparently because someone had misplaced a set of master tapes of the recording at an airport or something. This merely served to heighten the tension. By the time it was finally released, the staffers on the NME were on the verge of a collective orgasm of anticipation and they couldn't wait to rush into print extolling it as the best thing ever. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the NME office when copies of this album finally hit their desks.
The fact that this horribly over-produced album could have been voted by the New Musical Express as its top album of the year says more about the New Musical Express in my view than anything else. I suspect that, in the cold light of day, many of those panegyricists would have a different view about the album and such a view, with over thirty years to look back at it, will be very very different. True, it is not good, but it is not as bad as it was thought to be either, mainly due to the songs.
The problem with the album was that someone decided that the Clash would benefit from having 'proper' production on their second album, so they got in the noted rock producer, Sandy Pearlman. The added benefit, so that particular someone thought, would be to give the album a sound which would make it more appealing to the American market. Quite to the contrary of what the Clash themselves stood for, their record company decided they needed to crack America. The result was to set the band up to fail. And how!
There was one problem with this tactic which was overlooked by all. The Clash were a punk band. The sound of punk was supposed to be raw and production of punk tracks gradually evolved to a style to suit the music. But it was never a rock music style and the overproduction of a rock music producer meant that the album sounded horrible in punk terms. And as for making it accessible to the American market, what did most late 70's Americans know about English-style punk music anyway? It was as locally-specific a genre at the time as you were going to find anywhere and its brashness did not translate well to the American mainstream as it had with the UK mainstream.
That said, there are some good tracks on this. "Safe European Home" is a stormer, "Tommy Gun" sets a pace which few could match while "English Civil War" takes a traditional arrangement and gives it a good thrashing. It bombed critically and commercially. Frankly, I am not surprised. It's not a bad album, it just could have been so much better! If those master tapes are still around it might be a good idea for someone to rework them, this time with a different producer at the helm, and re-issue the album. I wonder how it would sound?
User Reviews and CommentsLog In or Register to Rate Albums
Tell us why this album is great or sucks ass, or correct the reviewer. If you write enough quality reviews you may find yourself on the editorial staff.
Reviews have to be over 100 words, shorter ones are classed as comments.