In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Is there a worse final album from a band this revered?”
By the mid 80s, The Clash were seven or eight years, and five albums into being a hugely successful, internationally renowned band. They had played a major part in taking punk rock to the world, and released several records that are still seen as masterpieces three decades later. Then, they fired half of their seminal line up, lead guitarist Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon. One album later, the band would be completely broken up and much mudslinging would ensue.
In this revisit of the band’s discography, I’ve been kind of dreading this last album. It doesn’t have the greatest reputation, and I was always partial to the slightly poppier tendencies of Jones and the way he counter balanced the aggression of Joe Strummer. But now, I just found another reason to expect the worst form Cut the Crap, it’s not on Spotify. Every other studio album, live release and compilation is on there right now, for your listening pleasure. But no Cut the Crap, almost like the surviving members of The Clash would prefer to pretend it never happened.
The drum machine and fake horn section of Cut the Crap isn’t a good start. What makes it even more frustrating is, take away the fakeness, and you’d have a pretty good Clash style song. Maybe that’s just purely due to Strummer’s distinctive voice, but I really feel like there’s a better than average song beneath all of the bullshit here.
As the story goes, after the firing, Jones and Headon were planning a tour under the name “The Real Clash”, or something similar (who has time to Wikipedia these things?). A lawsuit or two later, and the tour never happened. What did happen, was Strummer penning a song called We Are the Clash for Cut the Crap. A song so formulaic and simple, to the point of clichéd, that it sounds like an overly ambitious high school music teacher wrote a G rated musical about The Clash for his class to perform.
There is plenty of genre hopping and experimentation in earlier Clash records, including the classic London Calling, and especially on the sprawlingly ambitious Sandinista! On those albums, even at their most misguided, those experiments were at least interesting. But the 8-bit video game feel of Are Your Ready is 80s synthesizers at their most craptastic. It also makes Strummer sound like an old man, trying to keep up with what whatever fleeting trend was popular the day they recorded.
This is England… Another potentially decent song, ruined by too many digital instruments and too many tweaks in the studio. You can hear the fire in the belly that fuelled so many great songs in band’s past. You can also hear it being all but extinguished by the saturation problems that plague all of Cut the Crap overall. It’s such a consistent problem, I have nothing new to add about the rest of the track listing.
Is there a worse final album from a band this revered? Are there any other long broken up bands out there who are still loved and respected, who went out on a lower note than The Clash with Cut the Crap? I can’t think of any.