Monday, May 12, 2008

History: Washington Bullets

The Clash: Washington Bullets


It's time for some (post) punk on this theme.

By the time Sandinista! came out, The Clash were not a punk band anymore in any recognizable sense of the word, and the featured track is ample evidence of this.  In fact, Sandinista!, their fourth studio release, is one of the most eclectic sets in my entire library. With Sandinista!, The Clash threw all caution (and according to some, all good sense) to the wind and recorded a mish-mash triple album of gospel, punk, reggae, dub, and even rap songs. And this following their massively successful and universally acclaimed London Calling (which in itself was considered experimental for the band when it was released).

According to Joe Strummer, the concept for a triple album arose from a "friendly competition" with Bruce Springsteen. A critic had commented that Springsteen's double-album, The River, would outsell London Calling and essentially wipe out its influence. Joe Strummer quoted himself as thinking, "Right Bruce, suck on this!" Then he expanded Sandinista! to three LP's.

My reading suggests that most critics characterize the album as "brilliant", while a significant minority see it as "bloated". For myself, I would fall into the "brilliant" camp.

The featured song is an abbreviated history of Latin America from the Cuban revolution to the Nicaraguan Sandinistas of the 1980's with an emphasis on US intervention and unsuccessful revolutions.  The style of the song is a mix of reggae and calipso, with some left over sounds that can only be classified as "Clash-like".


Matt said...

Nice one...
It's a Clash release I've never brought myself to the point of them-amounts-of-greenback-spending. So, good to hear a number.

Paul said...

Sandanista would have made a KILLER single album. The 3-LP thing has some appeal, but they really could have done a first rate follow up to the masterpiece London Calling if they'd whittled it down to the best 44 minutes of music. The other tracks could have been released later. Just my two cents.

Christopher tm said...

It should also be noted that when Sandanista! came out, the Clash took a significant reduction in their royalties on the album so that it would retail for about the same as a single-disc LP.

If that's not punk I don't know what is.

BWR said...

Paul - This is the most common comment about the album (that it would have been better to whittle it down). I agree to an extent because there are definitely 5-6 songs on there that I skip every time. But I would just modify your sentiment a bit by saying that it would have made an outstanding double album. There's enough great stuff on there for two LP's, easy. Just my opinion.

Mario B said...

OK, Paul, you're right. Single album with the cream of these songs ? Great ! I remember when it came out : I was angry ! But this song is fine.