Joe Strummer may be long gone but The Clash live on, or more appropriately put, rage on. That said, A lot of Clash has just been released. There is a five studio album set on vinyl and CD, a massive 12-disc box set, which gathers together all of the bands studio work, three discs of demos, all non-album singles and B sides, rarities, and a DVD of videos, and the two-disc Hits Back, which is also available on colored vinyl. It is a virtual cornucopia love feast for any hard core fan of the band.
If you would like an introduction or taste of their music, then Hits Back is the place to start. It features 32 of the bands well-known tracks. The track list is sequenced according to their legendary Brixton Fairdeal show from 1982. While this sequencing may appeal to Clash aficionados, for the uninitiated, it will not matter. In fact, while the track list may work on stage, in this format there is a dis-connect as the songs tend to jump to different periods of their career.
What we are left with is the individual tracks that stand on their own and that they do well. The music of The Clash may be dated a bit, as it was a reaction to the disco era and instrumental excess of the time, but it also remains some of the most passionate and powerful of its era. The 32 tracks are a fitting tribute to that legacy.
The Clash caught the first wave of the punk movement but they had the ability to move their sound more toward the mainstream while retaining punk’s energy and anti-establishment elements. “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” “Rock The Casbah,” and “Train In Vain” all became hits in the United States. They were just the tip of the iceberg however, as “Police On My Back,” “Bankrobber,” “Somebody Got Murdered,” “Ghetto Defendant,” and “Armagideon Time” were quick shots of anger directed at the world around them. It was rock music that opened up new avenues outside the accepted norms and changed the course of rock music.
The sound has been remastered and there is a short but informative booklet that contains a history of the band.
Hits Back may not have the consistently of their studio albums but is a fine introduction to their music. And remember to play it loud.