This evening (Dec 22nd) will mark the ten year anniversary of one of the 20th Century's greatest individuals, both in and outside of music: John Graham Mellor, or as he was better known, Joe Strummer.
Strummer, who led the hugely influential punk band The CLash from their incarnation in 1976 until their eventual spilt a decade later, blended elements of ska, reggae, rock and punk to create what was then a truly original sound, and what is now a sound that has been replicated numerous times.
Of course, Strummer's legacy transcends his music, for he was so much more than just your throwaway singer/guitarist. He was a man of strong and noble morals, and stood by them no matter what, whether it was through his constant backing of the Rock Against Racism campaign or fighting for the rights of Planet Earth with the Future Forests campaign. He was dedicated to forward-thinking politics and his songs would almost always be infused with his own political agenda, whether he was writing for The Clash or any of his post-Clash projects and even when he left punk behind he still remained the living embodiment of its DIY ethos.
Continue reading: Joe Strummer Remembered: 10 Years After His Death
Streetcore may not quite reach the heights of its predecessor (2001's Global a Go-Go), but despite a ragged patchwork nature of rescued studio takes, it's certainly a fitting bookend to Joe Strummer's career.
Following his sudden death in 2002, fellow members of The Mescaleros Martin Slattery and Scott Shields assembled a third and final record from unused material. It shares some similarities with the similar American Recordings of latter day Johnny Cash that Rick Rubin subsequently rescued from the archives. But unlike Cash's sombre march towards the grave, Strummer seems to have revisited his youth here.
Opener 'Coma Girl' is perhaps the most recognisable song of the 10 that formed the original record. It includes a sly nod to Strummer's beloved summer retreat of Glastonbury; "I was crawling through a festival way out west". Elsewhere, the opening guitar brings to mind the vitality of early The Clash records. While Streetcore doesn't possess the experimentation of the first two Mescaleros records, it succeeds by playing to Strummer's strengths as a Punk icon. So while some of the vocals are a little rough around the edges, the ragged guitars that accompany them only add to the sense of immediacy. Other parallels to the Clash include 'Burnin' Streets', which acts like a more relaxed cousin to 'London's Burning'. Some of the references made in the extracts from Strummer's radio show (that form a loose lyric for 'Midnight Jam') also have an air of nostalgia.
Continue reading: Joe Strummer - Streetcore Album Review
Albums of Note... Breaking away from their successful sibling recording partnership, Angus and Julia Stone have both begun releasing equally impressive solo material and this week, we take a look at Angus Stone's latest solo album, Broken Brights. Angus' song writing nods to classic rock legends such as Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Johnny Cash. A highlight of the album is the track 'Apprentice of the Rocket Man,' the description of which makes it feel like it may be worth buying the album for this track alone: "The ability of this track to transport you to another world is quite incredible. If you want to experience weightlessness without passing the NASA exam or forking out the $200,000 for a Virgin Galactic flight then sit back, close your eyes and become immersed in Angus Stone's quite brilliant tune."
The second album released by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros is being reissued by the Hellcat record label. Global A Go-Go was an exciting foray into world music for the former Clash frontman and his band of merry men. It was the last album released by Strummer before his death in 2002 but the reissue is light on feeling like a cash-in, on Why?at would have been the year of his 60th birthday. Musically, the Mescaleros were many a world apart from The Clash, but the emotional anger of punk remains. It's an instrumental track, though, that proves to be the focal point of Global A Go-Go: "A 17+ minute reworking of a traditional Irish Folk song closes the album. 'Minstrel Boy' is a perfect way to bring the curtain down as it ebbs and flows like an improvised jam session around a campfire. Featuring a wealth of disparate instruments it brings together many of the musical ideas to be found on Global A Go-Go into one track."
Joe Strummer's foray into World Music with the Mescaleros has been largely overlooked in the pages of recent rock history. Perhaps that's because, a year later, Damon Albarn did much the same thing with Mali Music, or maybe it's just that Strummer's status as punk icon cast a long shadow over his subsequent work. Whatever the reason, Hellcat's reissue of the second Joe Strummer & The Mecaleros album Global A Go-Go is a real treat.
While it's light on bonus material, that's almost a blessing, it doesn't feel like they're cashing in on what would have been Strummer's 60th birthday by re-writing his legacy. For the uninitiated Global A Go-Go was the final album Strummer completed before his sudden death in 2002. Unlike its predecessor, the record displayed its cultural melting pot credentials proudly with each track highlighting Strummer's warm, everyman vocal delivery.
'Johnny Appleseed' with its mix of Celtic and African influences, 'Global A Go-Go' with its dub and electronic flourishes, and 'Mondo Bongo' with its late night Latin vibe, all sit proudly alongside Strummer's finest work. While there's little doubt Strummer was the main draw for many listeners, the multi-instrumentation approach from each of the band members is the real revelation here. Effortlessly fusing styles and ideas, it's a record that really hasn't dated because, in many ways, it was ahead of its time.
Continue reading: Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Global A Go-Go Album Review
Canvey Island in the Thames estuary is known as Oil City for the refinery that dominates the horizon. It's also a scruffy beach community and home to the members of Dr Feelgood. Lee, Wilko, Figure (Martin) and Sparko (Sparkes) started playing music out of camaraderie and boredom, then realised it might be a way off the island when their distinctive style caught on in 1973. Without trying to build a slick image as a band, they made it onto the cover of NME before they even had a recording contract.
Continue reading: Oil City Confidential Review