Friday, June 4, 2010

404- Sandanista! An ambitious shambles.

Album: Sandanista!
Artist: The Clash.
Year: 1980.
Genre: You name it.

  1. The Magnificent Seven
  2. Hitsville UK
  3. Junco Partner
  4. Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
  5. The Leader
  6. Something About England
  7. Rebel Waltz
  8. Look Here
  9. The Crooked Beat
  10. Somebody Got Murdered
  11. One More Time
  12. One More Dub
  13. Lightning Strikes (Not Once but twice)
  14. Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)
  15. Corner Soul
  16. Let's Go Crazy
  17. If Music Could Talk
  18. The Sound of Sinners
  19. Police on My Back
  20. Midnight Log
  21. The Equaliser
  22. The Call Up
  23. Washington Bullets
  24. Broadway
  25. Lose This Skin
  26. Charlie Don't Surf
  27. Mensforth Hill
  28. Junkie Slip
  29. Kingston Advice
  30. The Street Parade
  31. Version City
  32. Living in Fame
  33. Silicone on Sapphire
  34. Version Pardner
  35. Career Opportunities
  36. Shepherds Delight

When I'm listening to the top 500 albums in order I never know what I'm going to encounter next. I'm just as likely to find something horrible as something sensational and can run into rock, pop, hip hop, or anything in between and outside. Listening to Sandanista! is a microcosm of that experience contained in the one release. The Clash's fourth album is an absolute shambles that sprawls over two full CD's packed with pretty much every music style going around at the time and even some that you could believe The Clash invented. In it's original form it was six sides of baffling vinyl that ping ponged around so many genres, themes and moods it made The White Album look positively focused. For some it's the greatest album of all time, for others it's an unlistenable disaster while there are those who believe it's a great album padded with two albums of detritus.

If you're a fan of Rock and Roll then you'd have to be a pretty hardened cynic not to enjoy some songs on this album. Granted you'd need a guide of some kind to find them but there are definitely treasures here. Washington Bullets is the jauntiest song about Fidel Castro that I've ever heard, The Sound of Sinners is the greatest gospel song ever produced by a punk band and the opening track is worth having just for the fantastic line "Italian Mobster shoots a lobster" which is one of my all time favourite Rock Rhymes. The good songs (and I'll add Charlie don't surf, The Call up, Somebody got murdered and even Hitsville UK to the ones I've already mentioned) are a logical next step from the heights the band reached on London Calling and an obvious step towards Should I stay or Should I go now and Rock the Casbah.

As for the bad... they're pretty bad. Possibly the worst offenders are the tracks that aren't just failed songs but odd bastardizations of existing tracks. There are six songs that are basically just dub versions of decent songs which only serve to take some of the gloss of the original, especially in the instance of One More Dub which comes straight after One More time and fuses with it to form something repetitive and annoying. Mensforth Hill is just one of the earlier tracks played backwards with a few things overdubbed over the top, it sounds like... well it sounds like a song played backwards. If that sort of thing were enjoyable then we'd play our records backwards all the time. Among the other famous misfires is a cover version of Career Opportunities, an earlier Clash hit, sung by two small children for no really discernible reason. It's sufficiently dreadful that by the midpoint you begin to wish they were playing it backwards, it could hardly sound worse. Lying somewhere between the hits and the misses are the odd tracks that don't really land in either camp. Most notable is Ivan meets GI Joe which includes space invader sound effects, horns and a chorus that sounds like a children's sitcom theme. It's a big bucket of weird floating in a sea of extreme odd.

It's a generally held belief that The Clash made Sandanista! a triple record for no better reason than to see if they could. It's baffling then that in their scrabble for tracks to pad out the album they left off Bankrobber which was recorded during these sessions and released as a single but left off this release. Surely they could have found a dud track to drop in order to make room? The entire of the third disk springs to mind.

On the whole if you're prepared to approach Sandanista! with an open mind and a finger ready to hit the skip button you'll find a lot to like. But god knows it was painful experience having to hear the whole thing four times all the way through. Never again.

Influenced by: Absolutely everything.
Influenced: Anyone who heard it- for better or worse.

Highlight: Probably The Magnificent seven, which is actually a pity because it means the best song is over straight away leaving you with almost 2 and a half hours of inferior music,
Lowlight: Mensforth Hill just tops Career Opportunities.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "this is possibly the greatest c.d. of all time. The reggae/funk/disco sound is unbelievable. Sandinista features my all time favorite clash songs ever, washington bullets and hitsville UK. I gaurantee this c.d. will amze anyone, and if you say different your a liar."

-I love people who are so confident in their believes that they're sure any contrary opinion must be a blatant lie. Oh to be that confident.

So have you listened to Sandanista all the way through? Honestly? Let me know below.

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