Pop/Rock Record Reviews August 2022

Shock: Combat Rock + Hall of the People

British Columbia 19439955131 (LP). 1982/2022. The Clash and Glyn Johns, productions; Andrew Davitt, the Clash, and Tim Young, P.Eng.
Performance ****

When you’ve been singing “Ha! You think it’s funny, turning rebellion into money!”, it can be problematic when you start scoring major hits. With the Clash, it wasn’t fun; their success increased tensions and led to the band’s split. Music labels rarely have such qualms, and 40 years later, Combat Rock is getting the luxury treatment, with 1½ sides of The People’s Hallwith rarities and unreleased material.

The remastering gives the mix a little more pep, but a great album is still a great album. The extras are more interesting. But what is this half-album trend? One side of The People’s Hall is empty. Did they find nothing to fill it? battle rock was first mixed as a double album, by Mick Jones, with longer songs; Glyn Jones was hired to shorten them. What happened to the originals? Recorded for a rainy day (record store)?

The Clash being the Clash, there are occasional misfires. “Outside Bonds” is a recording of people talking about bonds. Outside. No doubt this was a political statement, but Noam Chomsky is not. Still, the band’s desire to take risks and explore styles is a joy. Sometimes they mix styles in one song, like on the skiffle-meets-Motown instrumental, “He Who Dares or Is Tired.” In “The Fulham Connection (aka The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too)”, the boys try bossa nova, West London style.

Mick Jones was an early proselytizer of rap; one of the standout tracks is graffiti artist Futura 2000’s rap over Simonon’s bass on “Futura 2000”. Alternate versions can sometimes be a mistake, but the funkier “This Is Radio Clash”, with different lyrics, and the doubled “Know Your Rights” are, to me, better than the originals.

Taken together, the 2½ sides are a wonderful addition to the Clash barrel. Once again, the Clash rebellion has been turned into money, but it’s fun.—Phil Brett

Wet leg: wet leg
Domino Folders. WIGLP496 (LP). 2022. Dan Carey, Jon McMullen, prod.; Alexis Smith, Joshua Mobaraki, P.Eng.
Performance *****

Great debut albums that grab the listener and don’t let go are part of an elite club. Wet Leg joined him, with a gold membership card. It’s an exciting album, with fun tattooed on it.

The band was formed by longtime friends, guitarists/vocalists Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers. The two women are the heart, soul, spirit and sense of humor of the band.

Coming from the Isle of Wight may have something to do with how cool they are. Even allowing for its famous festival, the small island off England’s south coast is hardly known as the center of rock ‘n’ roll – a quiet family vacation in caravans perhaps, but not R ‘n’R. There wasn’t a big scene on the island that needed styling or perspective.

Here, the two women are joined by Henry Holmes (drums), Michael Champion (bass) and Dan Cary (synths). The latter also produces, and his production, like his work with Goat Girl, is no fuss; he lets the band play and do their thing.

The main thing is exuberance. He’s a ubiquitous contributor, even on the most soulful numbers like “I Don’t Wanna Go Out.” Most of the tracks, however, are straightforward and bouncy, to be enjoyed, sung and danced to. Songs such as “Chaise Longue” and “Oh No” glorify in pop joy, never taking themselves too seriously. In that respect, they remind me of the Undertones. But, like this band too, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken seriously. The lyrics could dwell on the mundane, like this, from “Too Late Now” – “I don’t need no radio, no MTV, no BBC / I just need a bubble bath to send me on a higher path” – but they tell the real life story. And real life is rarely a pink Cadillac.

Whether stereophilic had a ranking for Life-Affirming, wet leg would get a 5. I’ll give it a 5 anyway, for “Performance”.—Phil Brett

Virginia F. Goins