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Joe Strummer - Assembly Music Album Reviews

Joe Strummer - Assembly Music Album Reviews
This new compilation adroitly selects high-water marks from Strummer’s solo career while never quite ameliorating the “what if” questions that haunt the Clash’s legacy.

Among the great songwriting teams of the second half of the 20th century, perhaps none suffered more self-evidently from their cleaving than the Clash’s Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. They were two powerhouse talents whose skill sets uncannily complimented one another. Strummer was an idea factory whose burning intellectual curiosity and far-flung travels as a diplomat’s son gave the Clash a panoramic sweep that set them apart from their more provincial peers in early British punk. The glam-loving Jones was a natural studio technician with a masterful ear for melody and arrangement, and a knack for streamlining Strummer’s peripatetic concerns into something palatable to a large audience. After the band’s breakup, both would go on to make excellent work as solo artists (and occasionally collaborators), but neither would again achieve such a harmonious and productive partnership. Strummer lamented their parting of ways for the remainder of his life.

Following the unfortunate dissolution of the Clash, Strummer’s erratic tendencies became further ingrained without the organizing principle of the band. He globe-hopped relentlessly, indulging both his curiosity and his appetites, a culture-shifting punk icon turned genuine nowhere man. Creatively, he remained as fertile as ever, but without Jones to challenge him, his sundry projects with backing bands the Mescaleros and Latino Rockabilly War varied wildly in quality. The groundbreaking dub and electronic interludes that populated later Clash records Sandinista! and Combat Rock frequently drifted into inchoate sketches, while Strummer’s well-honed ear for hooks clearly needed Jones’ singular ability to bring them to the fore. In this sense, Strummer’s entire solo career was a lost opportunity. Still, inevitably, the highs were high and in many ways well suited to the best-of treatment, which manages the editing that Jones never got to do.

The new compilation Assembly adroitly selects high-water marks from Strummer’s solo career while never quite ameliorating the ”what if” questions that haunt the Clash’s legacy. The collection commences with two of the best songs Strummer recorded with his longtime backing band the Mescaleros: The winsome opener “Coma Girl” is a chugging singalong whose parade of roaming outcasts would fit comfortably in Thin Lizzy’s firmament, while “Johnny Appleseed” is a slow-burning union anthem that functions as a kind of spiritual sequel to the Clash’s epochal “Clampdown.” Following 40 years of systemic abuse of the working poor, Strummer addresses the investor class with Solomon-like wisdom: “If you’re after getting the honey/Then you don’t go killing all the bees.”

Strummer was not so much catholic in his tastes as open at every aperture: receiving dub, rockabilly, hip-hop, and Spanish folk songs with equivalent ecstasy, and unwilling or unable to decide why they shouldn’t all be played together at once. While tracks like the sonic gumbo of the seven-minute “At the Border, Guy” or the shimmering “Yalla Yalla” don’t exactly cohere, they are fascinating insights into the mind of an artist whose first principle was shared humanity through cultural exchange.

Other highlights include the dyspeptic pop of “Love Kills,” which bares more than a passing resemblance to Mick Jones’ brilliant-post-Clash outfit Big Audio Dynamite, and the down-and-out busker blues of “Long Shadow,” which seems to write Strummer’s own epitaph: “And if you put it all together/You didn’t even once relent/You cast a long shadow/And that is your testament.”

Assembly’s greatest rescue job is the heartbreaking ballad “Sleepwalk,” taken from 1989’s Earthquake Weather. It’s a slow-burning meditation on loneliness that sounds like Los Lobos covering the Kinks’ “Picture Book,” and underscores the boundless melancholy that always lay beneath Strummer’s deep-in-the-red empathy. “What good would it be?” the chorus ponders, “If you could change every heartache that ran through your life and mine?”

It’s a fair point. And to the extent that Assembly is intended to disentangle the final years of Strummer’s life from the echoes of his previous achievements, it largely succeeds. When he died at age 50 of a massive coronary in 2002, it was just a month after he and Mick Jones had shared the same stage for the first time since 1983, blasting through giddy versions of “White Riot” and “London’s Burning.” Talk of a reunion was always taking place. He never once showed signs of flagging, or slowing down. It’s a shame he didn’t have longer.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Joe Strummer - Assembly Music Album Reviews Joe Strummer - Assembly Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, April 03, 2021 Rating: 5

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