In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “A sign of the Clash growing as musicians, gaining more and more musical weapons at their disposal to get their message out there.”
There’s a reason that the terms “difficult second album” and “sophomore slump” are so commonly used in music criticism. Bands often have a lifetime to write their first album. Then, if it’s anything close to successful, they have a lot less time and lot more pressure to back it up with something better. I have to believe that it’s even harder to back up when your first album is an explosion, punch in the face burst of raw emotion like The Clash’s eponymous debut. Never the less, there they were just two years later, going just as hard, and pushing things even further, with Give ‘Em Enough Rope.
Making it clear that they had lost none of the urgency from their debut, Safe European Home has Give ‘Em Enough Rope burst out of the gates at top speed. But it also finds room for a little more melody than its self titled predecessor was ever concerned with. Things are far from subtle when the Clash steals a traditional, rally cry, patriotic melody for a song called English Civil War. It’s a juxtaposition that makes sure their point is made before a single word is sung.
Next up is Tommy Gun, a song that occupies a place in my head and iTunes library as one of the quintessential Clash songs. The machine gun drumming to match the song’s title drives a song that more than lives up to the images that title evokes. The opposite of the quintessential Clash song is the combination of reggae back beat and ragtime piano that is Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad.
There’s definitely a little more ambition and experimentation on Give ‘Em Enough Rope. The urgency and punk rock dissatisfaction is in no way watered down. It’s just a little more polished with things like the addition of horns on Drug-Stabbing Time or the genre aping of songs like the almost doo-wop feel of stay Free.
The leg stretching continues with the almost arena rock grandeur of Cheapskates. Again, the extra bombast takes noting away from the scrappy, fuck you, us against them angst of the band. It’s just a sign of the Clash growing as musicians, gaining more and more musical weapons at their disposal to get their message out there.