1977 Album in Review: The Clash – The Clash

The Clash’s debut, self-titled album The Clash (released on LP in the UK in April of 1977) borrows from classic rock and roll as well as reggae influences to create a sound that’s less anarchic and brash than other earlier punk rock bands, but still filled to the brim with pure, unfiltered rage. Upon releasing what many critics have cited as the quintessential punk album, The Clash was born in an era of political and social instability in the UK and established a precedence for what punk music should be; music that’s revolutionary, passionate, and makes a statement.

The themes present in the album reflected the troubles faced by British youth in the 1970s. Unemployment was a major concern amongst young adults who feared that their futures were hopeless. The root of this concern was a government that many viewed as untrustworthy and did not have its population’s best interests in mind. The youth of the country was angry and punk culture emerged to give them a voice. The Clash acted as the staple soundtrack to this new revolution. The songs present on the album are generally short, intense, and fuelled by revolutionary undertones. “White Riot” features lyrics that advocated social change and acted as a rallying crying for the youth, posing questions like: “Are you taking over / Or are you taking orders? / Are you going backwards / Or are you going forwards?” The track “Career Opportunities” comments on the economic situation in England at the time, particularly the lack of jobs available to the youth, while “Remote Control” critiques greedy corporations and discourages conformity. Many of the themes present on the album are what many have come to associate the punk genre with; rage, non-conformity, rebellion against oppression, and promotion of revolutionary liberal ways of thinking.

Many of the tracks on the album are short in length but explosive and adamant in nature. The instrumentation is limited to the classical rock and roll setup of two guitars, a bass, and drums. Strummer and Jones` vocals are raw and untrained, providing the songs with an ambitious battle cry where substance trumps style. The music is fast-paced, gritty, and unvarnished. The guitars offer the classic garage band chord selection played to full effect. Drums and bass lock together to provide the solid, pounding bottom to the tracks. The instrumental performance supplies the proper support to the intensity of the lyrics.

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