Vinyl Vlog 558

Vinyl Vlog 558

Monday, 04 July 2022

The Clash
Combat Rock + The People’s Hall
40th Anniversary Edition

Let’s add something more what has already been said about a 40 year old album by one of the most important bands in history. If you’re a punk, you’re already familiar with the Clash’s Combat Rock. If you’ve never heard the Clash and are curious to get into them, and want to understand them in true “album form,” Combat Rock offers the perfect starting point. It’s an incredibly ambitious album that somehow connected with the massed, mostly due to it having the Clash’s catchiest tunes in its track listing. Combat Rock has two personalities, with side one giving the people what they want, and side two giving the people what the band wants. It’s the perfect embodiment of what the Clash were doing as a band: delivering important messages to the masses.

Combat Rock also catches the band at a crossroads, sick of each other and barely getting along, with doom on the horizon for some of its members. Guitarist Mick Jones saw this as a grand exercise in pop music, while vocalist Joe Strummer wanted to cut the fat and get back down to punk rock basics. Legends have been told of the contrast in visions between the two leaders of the band, and even though Strummer won the battle by having Jones kicked out of the band, he lost the war as his version of the Clash was unable to survive much longer. Combat Rock is the last true statement of the band as a cohesive unit, even though that statement was a compromise on all fronts. For as weird as it is, it still turned out great and people loved it.

It’s fitting that Combat Rock is getting a 40th anniversary edition, but also quite unexpected. Mick Jones has said that he is uninterested in releasing more hidden Clash material, but somehow OK’ed this release. Maybe he needs a deck on his house. But equally unexpected is that he did not OK his full vision of Combat Rock called Rat Patrol at Fort Bragg, a version that clocked in at 75 minutes with all the extras. Instead we get this version of Combat Rock “the People’s Hall,” which serves more as an idea of where the Clash were at this period in their career. Hardcore fans hate the lack of extras in this release, and even though I see it as a missed opportunity, I don’t mind it that much. The People’s Hall is 23 songs, 2 of which are “new” in any true sense. Outside Bonds is a baffling amateur recording of the fans outside Bond’s Casino trying to get into the show,  Futura 2000 is an original cut that is more Clash adjacent than a true Clash song, and He Who Dares or is Tired is an actual b-side, though instrumental, that never made it on the album. That last one is what hardcore fans will want to discuss. The rest of the additions to Combat Rock have been previously released, and if you’re a casual fan wanting to dig deeper into this era of the Clash, do a fantastic job of putting into perspective how they were experimenting with their sound and how Combat Rock almost turned out vastly different than the final, honestly pretty awesome, final product. There are b-sides, extended versions of songs, Rat Patrol entries, and singles of that era all included in the bonus material. In that sense, the People’s Hall serves a great purpose: having something both for interested and hardcore fans.

This vinyl edition is very cool but also a mystery. The entire album is included here in beautiful 3XLP, with a wonderful insert and poster and essay on the Clash, but the extras are on 3 of the 4 sides of the additional two vinyls. Yes, you read that correctly: in our current time of vinyl shortage, in a compilation of the Clash’s most successful album, the powers that be thought it fitting to leave an entire side of a vinyl record blank. That’s just weird.

The Combat Rock is an album that has aged beautifully and still packs a powerful message both musically and lyrically after 40 years. The People’s Hall isn’t perfect, but it’s a wonderful supplement that adds a lot of color to the Clash as they were charging forward while falling apart. This vinyl edition is the current gold standard for it.

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