I've been going to a lot of movies lately, and every time I go, I see the trailer for the new Anthony Hopkins movie, The Fastest Indian. The trailer makes the movie look like it could be a lot of fun, and it makes me miss The Clash. If and when you see the movie or the trailer, you might find yourself missing The Clash too, so I'm gonna save you the trouble of figuring out which of their songs is used in the trailer and what album it's on. But before I do, I'm gonna tell you why I miss the group that was once billed as “the only band that really matters.” I can't think of many bands today who are willing to be outspoken and find themselves driven to rock or question the status quo with as much energy and catchy song writing as The Clash. Now admittedly, just because you call your album Combat Rock or Sandanista! doesn't necessarily make you a sociopolitical expert. The fact that The Clash did “make statements” like that—as well as other thought provoking gestures that went above and beyond the initial “punk ethic” and proved themselves to be commercially viable in both the UK and the US—is a clear testament to the band's rugged integrity and the stubborn DIY attitude they applied to every aspect of their careers and the music industry.
Nonconformity was their mantra—for better or for worse—and part of me feels that today's musicians, as much as I enjoy them, could use a little problematic idealism themselves. I'm not saying everything The Clash did was perfect… far from it. Sandanista! was a bloated triple record set that would have made an excellent single LP, and I challenge anyone to hum me a few bars from any song on side two of Combat Rock. Still, I was grateful for the introduction, and inspired to explore reggae and dub, thanks to their interest in absorbing the black musical styles popular in the multiracial neighborhood they called home and I, growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, knew nothing about. There was an urgency and exciting (albeit sometimes misdirected) political posturing to The Clash's music that did its best to challenge the status quo beyond the mere stylings of punk rock. Indeed, The Clash managed to achieve both respect and and a credible degree of commercial success before they flamed out and moved on in fine punk rock fashion. So, here for your listening pleasure allow me to dust off “Police on my Back” from the band's fourth album, Sandanista! (Please use the comments box to share your thoughts.)