It’s June, y’all. Officially unofficially summer, which means the race for Summer Jam is on! Gorillaz submit their entry with a breezy number and video with shots of the band’s animated characters roller skating, playing chess and menacing basketball players along Venice Beach. Jack Black shows up because…why not?
“Humility” featuring George Benson is the lead off single from the new album THE NOW NOW, the sixth studio album from the virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett.
In other Damon Albarn news, the singer told Zane Lowe on his Beats 1 show that a new album from his other project with the Clash’s Paul Simonon, the Verve’s Simon Tong, and drummer Tony Allen is also completed. This will be the second album from The Good, The Bad and the Queen, following on the band’s 2007 debut that was produced by Dangermouse and was on heavy rotation in my house for what seemed like a decade…and I guess probably was.
I think it’s fairly easy to buy Christmas gifts for me. Honestly, I don’t know what the trouble is for some. You could easily go and take a look at my record collection, figure out what artists I enjoy and then find out the missing pieces of the artist’s catalog that I don’t have and help fill them in. If you don’t have access to that, just get me a gift card and I’ll figure it out myself.
Honestly, I wouldn’t take offense.
For years growing up, my Father understood that I was a big music fan and he would try to address this each year at Christmas. The problem was that he would take the holidays as an opportunity to try and “teach” me about rock music. In other words, he took it upon himself to try and educate me on some of the artists that he considered to be vital. As a result, there were many years where I would rip open the wrapping on what was obviously a record and then have to feign excitement over a brand new album by…the Yardbirds.
Back in 1984, the Who released one of those “cleverly” titled Who albums called Who’s Last. It was a posthumous attempt by MCA records to cash in on The Who after the announcement that the band would call it quits. The album was a lackluster affair that later turned out to be a bit premature with the entire farewell connotation.
The idea of The Clash playing at Shea Stadium is a bit misleading too as they were on the bill after David Johansen‘s set and just before, you guessed it, The Who. The entire “passing the torch” motif looked good on paper, but the unfortunate reality was that The Clash themselves were also reaching the end of their career. It’s also important to note that, despite initial reports that The Clash’s fans rivaled The Who’s in actual numbers, most people in attendance remember a pretty hostile Who crowd, booing the opening act in the hopes that they would get off the stage.
The reality then must come from the content, and when you compare the audio evidence, you hear immediately that the band with the tightest set was the band that still had something to prove.
I’ve never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or been on a roller coaster, and until two months ago I had never heard London Calling by the Clash. In my adolescent punker days the number of tracks scared me away: 19 on a punk record. In college I couldn’t justify buying something I should have owned twice already or face the stares of the record store clerks. It took another 8 years and ten dollars left on a Best Buy gift card for me to finally take the plunge and give London Calling a good hard listen.
Of course, London Calling isn’t a punk record. There’s no loud and fast, sneer and scoff posturing that makes cartoons out of the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls. While punk made it possible for the Clash to be a band it’s equally important that they broke away, and that’s what made them, as Joe Strummer put it, the only band that mattered.
All genres are constricting and the great bands are the ones who can live in styles and not for them. The songs on this album span continents and islands, yet never fake the accent. There are girls, cars, movie stars and shady characters sporting dread locks and duck asses. It’s expansive and great, but it isn’t perfect. I stand by my initial reason for avoiding this purchase, there are too many tracks. But there are so many A-grade songs that a B+ just doesn’t cut it here.
Track-by track breakdown of the best album I’d never heard after the jump…
It’s not lost on me that when London Calling and Sandinista! were originally released, The Clash forfeited their royalties so that the multi-record sets could be sold for the same price as a single album. A quarter century has passed, Joe Strummer is gone, and Mick Jones has traded character for cocaine, so it should surprise no one that the band’s label is doing everything possible to eek out every last dime that The Clash’s limited catalog has to offer. Gone are the days of consumer-minded pricing; the latest catalog revamp places every one of the band’s 19 UK singles in a 19-disc box set that spans their entire career. The Singles is a completist’s dream and is priced high enough to sway new listeners away from using the release as a starting point.
But I’m willing to bet that novices who spin London Calling for the first time will jump head first into the rest of the catalog and, quite possibly, end up at the same point that I was when I shelled out the $64.95 needed to say “I have every one of the Clash’s singles in one convenient package.” Call me a music geek, a completist, or a sap for buying into Sony’s thinly-veiled marketing efforts; I’m perfectly content, nay, happy, about my purchase of The Singles.
Over the past two years we’ve gotten a lot of emails about the background image and logo of Glorious Noise. Both are based on a photograph of the Clash in concert taken by Pennie Smith. We thought the image best represented everything we love about rock and roll, and after months of trying to track her down, Pennie has graciously granted Glorious Noise permission to use the image as the backdrop of our site, a site dedicated to how rock and roll can change your life.
However, Pennie and Clash bassist Paul Simonon, pictured in the photo, decided years ago to never license the image for merchandising or marketing. To respect their wishes, Glorious Noise will discontinue our line of merchandise featuring an image designed by our own Pat La Penna and based on Ms. Smith’s famous photograph. All GLONO merchandise featuring the “smashing guitar” image will be removed from our store this Friday, December 8.
We sincerely thank Pennie Smith for granting us permission to use her photograph, and we respect her unwavering dedication to the agreement she and Simonon made. After all, there’s more to life than money and that’s rock and roll!
Now, don’t come kvetching to me about why I’m watching Bring It On months after its theatrical release. Let’s just say – ahem — that it’s for context, and leave it at that. Just like The Clash covering Vince Taylor & His Playboys on London Calling. And that leads to the point. In Bring It On, Our Heroine (Kirsten Dunst) not only befriends the punk rock chick who tries out for her elite cheerleading squad. She also falls for her new friend’s brother, a Clash-loving psuedo-intellectual who shreds a Dan-O-Lectro in his spare time and tries to teach his new girl about punk rock. There’s even a reference to his past in a Detroit high school. (See? Even Hollywood realizes Detroit is the new Seattle…). But here’s the funny part. Dunst is the head of the toniest cheer squad this side of Clueless. And here’s the blonde, bouncy cheerleading captain falling – for all practical purposes and Hollywood’s characterization amalgam theorems appreciated – for the local Indie Rocker. In his first scene, the kid sports beat up Chuck Taylors, the Ramones on his headphones, and a T-Shirt featuring Mick Jones and the boys. He promptly shows up the jocks with his smirky cool, and is immediately put in the good graces of Ms Dunst’s character, who in real life just might drop a quarter in the kid’s coffee cup, mistaking him for those less fortunate.
Which suggests the opening scenes of Gia, Angelina Jolie’s 1998 star vehicle that featured her as the doomed model whose innocence was corrupted by the Me Generation and her own excess. In the film, Gia waits outside the hoity-toity modeling agency for her photo shoot, only to have some of the more mamby pamby girls drop some loose change in her morning coffee. Ever the rebel, Gia struts into the agency and, staring down the smarmy receptionist, carves her name into the mahogany with her stiletto. That’s so PUNK, man. And that’s exactly the problem.
What is it about film that places the modicum of cool upon a genre that – in real life – is grudgingly respected at best? In the movies, the girls always go for the bad boy rocker/intellectual. Likewise, the girl who eats nails for breakfast – like Jolie’s Gia or Eliza Dukshu’s Missy in Bring It On – is met with hostility, then fear, and finally respect by those that would normally shun her. What it may come down to is this: The star of the movie cannot date his or her self. If the star in question is blonde, chiseled, or pretty, said star cannot date a similarly cheekbone’d or likewise coif’d individual. And in Hollywood’s streamlined view of Generation Y, there really are only two kinds of kids: Cool/Beautiful, and Cool/Intellectual. And in the latter archetype, musical taste always seems to be the way to display the difference.
THE RIGHT PROFILE
And in this bizarro Tinsel Town view of the world, the cool kid who digs The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Phillip K Dick is written like the punk rock Navy S.E.A.L. You know – in Baywatch, it’s his S.E.A.L. pedigree that gives Hasselhoff’s character his street –er, beach — cred. Spend any weeknight watching bad basic cable and you’ll come across an action move featuring a conflicted hero who harbors a black bag past as a demolition expert with the US Navy’s elite fighting force. Yeah, yeah, yeah — next. It’s the same thing with the rocker/intellectual archetype. If you need to make your star’s love interest cool, make him/her a rebel. The kind with a wallet chain, leather, and a tough attitude derived from the rebellious band T-shirts s/he wears to homeroom. Alicia Silverstone, aka the Kirsten Dunst of 3 years ago, made a similar move in Clueless. By finally falling for her nerdy, college-thinker stepbrother, Cher was simply following the Hollywood formula. And in last year’s Drive Me Crazy, Kirsten Dunst doppelganger and cool chick Melissa Joan Hart fell for her next door neighbor, a withdrawn misanthrope who nevertheless portrayed – In Hollywood’s eyes – the smart, sensitive rocker. In many ways Drive Me Crazy was a remake of She’s All That, starring Rachel Leigh Cook as the artistic geek who woos the class Cool despite her best efforts to remain a mousy painter. Which was in turn a remake of 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love, which followed the transition of a smart-yet-dopey kid into the true love of his class’s dream girl.
So what’s with this punk rocker/geek/rebel/intellectual archetype that keeps showing up in movies as the love interest? We’ve all seen where it ends. Thanks to real-life misanthrope John Cusack and his source material from Nick Hornby, America has seen what real Indie Rockers/Punks/psuedo-intellectuals tend to grow up to be: Frustrated record store owners who spend too much brain power on compilation CDs and not enough on personal hygiene. And yet, in the view of Hollywood, it’s this character set that presents the most pratfalls/romance for Gen Y movies being written at this moment. In real life, would the average impossibly attractive high school senior, who happens to be captain of her school’s cheerleading squad, go for, let’s say, Jack White of White Stripes? Or, to only add to their impossibly attractive hype machine, Julian Casablancas of The Strokes? Chances are – barring the millions that Casablancas and his mates will make in the next year on RCA – that it won’t happen. And yet, in the movies, composites of these guys are shitting on the captain of the football team and getting the girl in the process.
The guys I knew in high school who looked and acted like Dunst’s love interest in Bring It On usually got feces smeared on their car door handles at lunch. But for whatever reason, it’s these brave souls whose punk rock, book-reading lifestyles are perpetually eulogized on the big screen. What does this mean for all those skinny, burgeoning Indie Rockers out there in the Gen Y land? Well, probably not much. But at least they can take solace in the fact that they’ll grow up to be the guy with the coolest record collection. I’ll never understand Hollywood, but I’m glad that they think I’m the kind of guy that deserves the love of a starlet.