For better or for worse, the Clash's gift was for venting pointless hostility, not for making sense of the world. The group posed as rebel rockers because it knew it looked cool, but Joe Strummer's Red Brigades T-shirt was no more revolutionary than his sideburns or his leather jacket. The Clash's paradox was that its desire to say the right thing was tangled up in its desire to punish the human race for making it a bunch of punk losers in the first place. So its songs are rarely memorable for what they set out to say, for the worthy intentions that inspired such desire as the TV Personalities' "Part Time Punks," which concluded, "The Clash are nice." The Clash's records still startle and disturb because despite its efforts to be the most socially responsible punk band, the Clash was made up of sick f*cks who could never justify their destructive urges. The Clash captures the sound of lonely teenagers hiding in the garage, trying to channel their paranoid aggression into a roar loud enough to scare everybody else away. While Strummer spits and snarls, Mick Jones adds tuneful harmonies and guitar flash. The music makes utopian gestures of community, from the reggae cover "Police and Thieves" to the Slade-like football cheers in the choruses, but each utopian gesture suffocates in the carbon monoxide of "Garagegeland." Even "Police and Thieves" simmers with the same intensely private rage as "Remote Control," "What's My Name," or "Hate and War." A truly frightening album, fast and trebly, with each song a distinct physical pleasure. To paraphrase William Blake, the Clash sang fiercely about problems and weakly about solutions because the members were true punks, and of the devil's party without knowing it.


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