Monday, June 13, 2005

"Police On My Back"

Ask anyone who was around in the late 1970s who was the most influential punk band and eight times out of ten they'll say The Clash were. While it may have been the Sex Pistols who crashed through the door and did the donkey work of raising expectations and outraging the bourgeoisie, it was The Clash that documented the fizzing, heady, anything-is-possible firework mood. Unlike the Pistols, who lived the punk ethos every waking hour of their life, The Clash watched all, saw all, took themselves off to the studio and created the soundtrack: all of the anger, frustration, paranoia and outrage that punk threw up is there in every Clash song. This comes from their fourth album "Sandinista!", a sprawling record that heads off in all directions. "Police" was originally a reggae tune written by Eddy Grant, but The Clash do something extraordinary to it by yanking out any trace of reggae and crash-landing a squad of guitars on top instead. The main guitar figure is the siren, the drumming is the footsteps running, it's tight, sharp and encapsulates the whole period perfectly. The Clash were sharp operators, having experienced and understood the power of reggae in the cities, but this goes beyond simple appropriation - they pick the original apart like an old car and rebuild it as a hot rod.

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