The good folks at Louder than War picked up this post — check it out here. Thanks!
Happy day, Clash-o-philes!
It’s a day of rest, so they say, and I’ve got The Clash’s *Sound System* on my mind–okay, not the big, expensive one, but something that amazon (and others, I figure) are calling 5 Album Studio Set–which is not to be confused with 5 Studio Album Set, which is the same thing, but presently $0.21 more expensive. Nice work, amazon!
Note: this packaging may reference Paul’s inaugural arrival in the states in ’78, when he showed up at JFK carrying nothing more than a carrying case of LPs.
The reviews, of course, are nicely compiled at theclashblog, and Tim provides useful commentary on each commentary. In brief: reviewers are happy to talk about The Clash’s importance (big), the price of the boxset (big), and are having difficulty finding the time to actually listen to the music and–most importantly–to determine whether the remastering by “Tim Young and The Clash” yields new sonic pleasures to those of us who already have the studio albums (either on vinyl, CD, or iTunes). I’m staying away from those reviews for the moment
With that in mind, I sat down with Pete, as good as a listening comrade you could find, and I loaded up the CD carousel with the original discs alongside the new discs and compared a sample of key tracks. We started, of course, from the beginning and the exercise was worth the purchase price. No other recent purchase has compelled me to sit in the sweet spot of stereophonic sound and enjoy music the way we used to.
Why I’m suspicious that some of the reviewers haven’t found the time to actually listen to the discs: the discs are vinyl black, even on the flipside. There’s no room, of course, to discuss the visuals in a 70-word review (see Rolling Stone), but for those of us who were raised on vinyl, it’s an especially nice touch, and an indication I figure of Paul’s impeccable aesthetic sensibility. (Yes, that’s my book there in the image below–more on its fate below.)
Of all the LPs, I figure Mick & co. would be tempted to mess with *The Clash* the least. It wasn’t supposed to be an audiophile object: that was the whole point of The Clash in ’77. It did, of course, prevent the release of *The Clash* in the US (CBS deemed the LP “too noisy”) and, largely because of the New York fan base, went on to become the best-selling import LP in the US to date. If you’re interested in repeating this exercise at home, make certain that you’re comparing *The Clash* UK version, rather than the US version, as the tracks on the US release of *The Clash* in 1979 got a different treatment in the final mix.
So, here goes my own interpretive dance about architecture, as E. Costello once noted … The first thing you’ll notice with the new discs is the mix is loud. It proved a challenge bouncing between CDs, simply because the *Sound* version carries extra decibels. “Janie Jones” opens sparingly, of course, with the drums, guitar strum, and Joe’s voice and, on the *Sound* version, the phasing of the vocals is sharper, the bass is a tad warmer, and the drums are sharper in the mix. With “Cheat,” the slight but still noticeable improvements hold sway: Joe’s vocals are a bit sharper, the drums a tad snappier, and it sounds great. With “White Riot,” especially, the proof is in the Yorkshire pudding. Mick’s sweet guitar lick just before the vocals sounds crisper, but it’s the opening chorus that grabbed me anew: the vocals are cleaner and still carry more urgency. The stereo phasing is great, and Terry Chimes could hit those drums damn hard, and it’s clear-as-class-warfare in this mix. (It was also good to compare this version to the US mix, which substitutes a police siren for Joe’s counting off the tempo, and is otherwise now to be regarded as a weird period piece.)
More comparative listening notes to come next week. Even the 5 album set is a big package, and there’s plenty to work through.
I hope a few of you fine readers have had a chance to check out my book, which is now presently without a publisher. If you like the book, and you have some connections to a press that might like to take it over, please be in touch. I appreciate any and all considerations, no matter how small or remote.
Have a delightful and dub-heavy week!
Happy May Day, comrades! Finally, *Stealing All Transmissions* gets its UK release (orders are being filled as we speak), and I’m hoping my odd tale about The Clash and their allies gets some traction among my English brethren.
Speaking of the Brits, Dangerous Girls hailed from Worcester, started their own Happy Face Records and, in August ’79, released their first single, “Dangerous Girls” with “I Don’t Want to Eat (with the Family).”
The affinities with The Clash are noteworthy: both bands took their names from moral-panic-inspired news items and, on this track, a la “Janie Jones,” the track opens with plenty of room to breathe and a reggae lilt. I also dig the lead guitarist’s mane–in 1980!, when the codes for punk had certainly become a bit more austere and tyrannical.
Their most successful single, “Man in the Glass,” peaks at #2 on the alternative charts in November 1980.
Dangerous Girls manages an impressive duty of touring and recording through Feb 1982 (100 Club, among others), and then takes a 30-year hiatus to the day, returning in February 2012 for a one-off reunion at Hare and Hounds in Birmingham. They currently lack a wikipedia page (whoa!), but you can learn more about the band here.
Thanks for tuning in to radio K-SAT, and many thanks to organized labor for creating the weekend back in the day!