Vinyl Vlog 634

Vinyl Vlog 634

Monday, 29 January 2024

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros|
Streetcore 20th Anniversary RSD Edition

What an absolute bummer this album is. No, seriously. I mean it in a good way. Of all the Clash members maybe the best solo work came from Joe Strummer. That’s maybe not surprising. What IS surprising is that it came so late in his life. What did the man do after the Clash broke up? He wrote a good soundtrack for a great Western. He released the occasional song (all documented in the great Joe Strummer 001 and 002 box sets), he released a solo album which was not great. Then he took a break, spent time with his family being a hippie, then formed a new band The Mescaleros. That was the good band, right? Not exactly. The first Mescaleros album is OK. Kind of a product of its time, sounding like a soundtrack to a 90s movie starring the hot 3-named young actors of the time (just those beatbox drumbeats, man). Then came the opus Global A-Go-Go, the most cohesive complete Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros project made. It has some amazing songs truly exploring various genres. There is just so much going on in that album. But, unlike London Calling, it’s just very unfocused, with long lulls but leading to a beautiful payoff. Global A-Go-Go just has too much filler after its strong start.

Joe Strummer passed during the making of Streetcore, with the remaining members scrambling to finish the record. The result is, unfortunately, a very fragmented album, made up of some of the best songs Strummer has written, some acoustic songs which sound like demos, covers, with first take vocal performances, and an instrumental (were they Strummer approved?) with bits from Strummer’s radio show playing over them. And the album is made up of just 10 tracks. Needless to say, Streetcore is just unfinished, but this is what we have.

So, why do I say this album is a bummer? Because, Streetcore is full of potential. If the finished songs were any indication, this was going to be the strongest Strummer release yet, with all the punk energy of those Clash albums. Coma Girl, Get Down Moses, and Arms Aloft sound like a mature collaboration between Strummer and Mick Jones. The more exploratory songs like Ramshackle Day Parade are strong and show additional growth to Joe Strummer’s song writing. He always said the Mescaleros were democratic and you can see new influences seeping in. There’s just no telling what Streetcore would have ended up sounding like, but all evidence points to an album of the same caliber as the Clah material. Also, the production is great, sticking to a more straightforward sound than what we were hearing in Rock Art & the X-Ray Style and Global A-Go-Go.

Strummer’s music now has a new home in Dark Horse Records and this Record Store Day reissue comes with remastered audio and a reprint of the Coma Girl handwritten lyric sheet by Strummer. It’s cool and beautiful and kind of special.

Streetcore is absolutely essential for Clash fans and anyone who wanted to understand where Strummer came from and where he was headed. These songs tell an incredible story. RIP to one of the greats!

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