The Clash - Super Black Market Clash (4/5)
My three favorite bands/artists are The Clash, David Bowie, and Nirvana (sometimes in that order). Several months ago I realized I had been buying a string of albums by new bands--many of them debut albums. (Well, I had been buying whatever CDs my meager school loans could afford me whenever I decided I didn't really need to eat dinner for the next two nights). This struck me as odd because I remember back in middle school and high school I would choose two or three bands and quickly consume their discography. I began to notice huge gaps in my CD collection. The Clash were one of my favorite bands, but I only owned four of their CDs. It was time to starve for a couple more days.
For weeks I could feel "the shakes" coming on. You know, the rumbling that moves from your extremities until it infiltrated your whole body. I half expected dead babies to start falling from the ceiling a la Trainspotting. So I gave in and bought a few CDs, and made certain I start filling in the gaps in my Clash collection.
I love the feeling I get when I'm peeling the plastic from the jewel case. It's like a miniature Christmas, but better because you don't have to return everything. I proceed to unhook the jewel case cover so I can remove the annoying sticker at the top (if there's already a plastic cover why do we need the goddamn sticker). I don't believe in God, so this is really the only ritual I take part in. My girlfriend even accuses me of being obsessive about my CDs whenever I count them (she doesn't know me like they do anyways).
Enough about my idiosyncrasies, lets talk about the music. Super Black Market Clash is exactly what a B-sides album should be: a handful of gems ("1977," "Groovy Times," "Pressure Drop"), some experimentation ("Justice Tonight/Kick it Over," "Radio Clash"), but is ultimately uneven. I have been put on the record as saying that a B-sides album isn't worth anything if it isn't uneven (well, on the record because I just wrote it now). If the band doesn't have some failures then they're really not trying, are they? They're just spending time lounging in the safe zone. There's nothing terribly wrong with the safe zone, it's nice, I'd visit, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to live there. The two biggest critical darlings had some massive failures. Radiohead's first album was absolutely grating (and not in an avante garde sort of way) and in my personal opinion the Beatles were mediocre until Help!. That being said, some of the songs off the second half of the album fall a bit flat. Even so, they're all interesting to listen to and don't permanently scar the album.
Super Black Market Clash is just the fix for those of you who have already bought the first three CDs (which I recommend doing immediately if you haven't already). Perhaps I have been avoiding finalizing my Clash collection because I just don't want to get to the point where I buy the final CD. Until several years ago I always had the ability to look forward to Joe Strummer releasing an album now and then, but once he passed away the prospect of reaching the end of The Clash's extended discography became very real. If there was an artist who was able to truly represent the world I live in it was Joe Strummer. His music always presented the world with a hard edged realism, and yet managed to be filled with hope. It was like sifting through the dregs of a garbage bin to find a Picasso. Who's going to be the soundtrack to the world once I do buy that final CD? I guess I'm just marching to the inevitable.