In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s a long haul, but one that only feels like hard work in seldom, fleeting moments.”
When it comes to musicians and bands, there’s prolific, then there’s posthumous 2Pac, and then, there’s The Clash. As a recording band, they were only in existence for eight years, in which time they released six studio albums. At least four of which are still seen as classics. In their first four years alone, they released four albums. Including the double vinyl London Calling. And this, the beyond epic, triple vinyl monster that is Sandinista!
A monster that starts amazingly strong with Magnificent Seven. Built around what might be one of the greatest basslines in rock history, Joe Strummer’s seething anger is at a clenched maximum from the get go, setting a very high bar for the record to maintain for staggering 35 more tracks.
From the strange pop-art take on good clean fun that is Hitsville U.K, to the reggae of Junco Partner, to the videogame disco camp of Ivan Meets G.I Joe, to the surf guitar of The Leader, The Clash make sure the listener knows nice and early that Sandinista! isn’t going to be some straight ahead punk record. While London Calling hinted at their experimental wing spreading, this is a band diving headfirst into risk taking, genre bending, new territory.
With its Caribbean beats and hip swaying gate, Let’s Go Crazy makes me think that the boys from Madness were a fan of The Clash and Sandinista! While the waltz of If Music Could Talk makes me think absolutely no one was ever influenced by this four and half minute burst of inessentialness. And I have no idea what to make of the spiritual inspired The Sound of Sinners. Knowing the politics of the band and the good fight they fought, I know there’s no ill intention here. But it still sounds a little like race appropriation.
The Call Up is a pretty good song. Or, at least, it would be if it was half the length. When a song is this repetitive, and it’s being placed on a record this lengthy, there’s zero need for it to be over five minutes long.
Speaking (a couple of paragraphs ago) of appropriation, what’s the story with the Gaelic, female vocals lead Lose the Skin? If it was any other band, I’d assume it was some sort of piss take. But The Clash, god bless ‘em, never seemed to have much of a sense of humour, so I assume it’s tackling some important issue of the day. It just stands out in a strange (not necessarily bad) way on an album that refuses to settle into easily definable or predictable genres.
At almost two and half hours long, that’s a long, long time for any band to expect you to listen to an album. That’s almost as long as the Godfather, or watching both seasons of the UK Office back to back. So an album has to be pretty bloody amazing to justify that sort of length. I can’t imagine there’s a single album out there that does actually justify that kind of length. Even George Harrison’s phenomenal All Things Must Pass comes with an entire side of loose jams and go nowhere improvisations. But Sandinista! is in no way a slog either. It’s a long haul, but one that only feels like hard work in seldom, fleeting moments (I’m looking at you Version City, Silicone on Sapphire and Career Opportunities).