The Clash – The Essential Clash – Review

The Clash

The Essential Clash (Epic)
by Martin Popoff

As you watch this collection of grainy, out-of-focus, unremarkable visuals, bear in mind that The Clash‘s glorious trajectory across the rock ‘n’ roll landscape was but a fizzling trail when MTV first burned itself into the back of yer eyepods. But be thankful we have at least this much footage of this most crucial of bands. The core of The Essential Clash comprises 12 videos, of which only two could be called standard storyboarded productions, the rest live in the studio, live lip-synching, live collages, or, surprisingly often, truly live. Still can’t believe Joe is dead, at the mundanely fence-sitted age of 50 to boot. He is the focal point here, the sergeant, although Mick is captivating for his baby-faced rock star naiveté with virginal vocals to match. One (unplanned) constant throughout these videos is the oblique, uneasy lighting, which further pushes the band’s legend (most enduring image: The fairly professional “London Calling” video, with its U2-styled night raid vibe). Elsewhere, four more videos are called “extras” although they are no more extraneous than the others, one, “White Riot” even being a repeat. But there’s a pretty vacant, proto-punk interview from ’76, a few words around a pool table as well from the same year, and Hell W10, a short silent movie (with music backdrop: “Rudie Can’t Fail”: yeah!) made by the band in ’83. What falls out of the package in totality is a picture of the band live, quite tight due to drummer Tory Crimes (though fast, impatient), Joe and Mick giving a fat one to the lip of the stage, the band exuding nothing but heroic presence as they give out yer marching orders. OK, now let’s collectively and conveniently forget that the band lingered two records too long. I’m trying and succeeding as I sit in awe watching this thing, reflecting on the majesty of The Clash, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, London Calling, and bloody ‘ell, at least two-thirds of Sandinista!.