City Rockers – A Tribute to the Clash – Review

City Rockers

A Tribute to the Clash (Karma/Chord)
by Jon Sarre

Hopefully, the band bein’ gobbed on (‘member, gettin’ spat on used to be a form of approval in London a million years ago) needs no introduction… the Clash, right? That taken care of, well, Gus over at Karma figured it’d be a good idea to get a buncha bands together to record some prime Strummer/Jones (plus Paul Simonon, Nicky Headon, and Terry Chimes) shout-alongs, and that’s basically the way these things work. I’m sure everyone offered the opportunity jumped at it, cuz, well, it’s the Clash, right?

I don’t know if the bands got to pick their songs or had ’em chosen for ’em, but I do know that nearly half the material for this comp comes from London Calling (not too bad seein’ as three and a half sides of it I’d take to a desert island with me). Five cuts come from the first record (the US version anyway, I forget what is and what isn’t on the UK edition). Rounding it out, ya got one song offa Give ‘Em Enough Rope (the Mob‘s by-the-numbers, but much faster “Tommy Gun”), one from the underrated Sandinista! (Stubborn All-Stars‘ sounds-like-they-meant-to-do-“White Man in Hammersmith Palais” take on the real annoying – ya got six record sides to choose from and this is what ya pick? – “Lose This Skin”) and three selections (Demonspeed‘s boring “Rock the Casbah,” Error Type 11‘s Smashing Pumpkins-get-unplugged “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and Skinnerbox‘s dub-flavored twin-tone sounding “Straight to Hell”) from Combat Rock. What, no Cut the Crap???

Most of the bands can’t really think of enough interesting stuff to do with what they’ve got to work with, so they either read it as the clumsy punk or hardcore they normally do (see Hot Water Music‘s “Clampdown” or One King Down‘s “London Calling”), or just bang it out straight note-for-note (Saves the Day‘s “Clash City Rockers,” Ill Repute‘s “Train in Vain” and Kid Dynamite‘s “Hateful,” which sounds like Rancid covering the Clash). Murphy’s Law makes “Hate and War” sound like a Murphy’s Law song, complete with an unflattering Rudy Guiliani reference, pretty much ditto for the Dropkick Murphys and their take on “Guns of Brixton,” shifting it from raga breakdown to raucous boysclub singalong.

More inspired is Dave Smalley‘s all-by-his-lonesome trebly electric “Death or Glory,” where he occasionally sounds like he’s singin’ too fast, and Fang‘s goofy rockabillizied “White Riot.” Incognegro (with ex-members of the Goats), however, takes the prize by jacking “Brand New Cadillac” (which wasn’t even written by the Clash) and cut’n’pastin’ on full-on hip-hop beats and samplin’ the opening guitar riff and Strummer’s “bahhhhh” offa the London Calling version and graftin’ on improvised lyrics about boomin’ systems and rollin’ fatties. It’s the best rock’n’roll on the record and they’re not even a damn band, how ’bout them apples?
(PO Box 15793 Philadelphia, PA 19147)