Both historically and personally to The Clash, London Calling was massively crucial. It served as one of the most convincing and exciting examples of just how far punk rock could be stretched; with its creators pushing the boundaries of their once straight ahead rock sound into realms few other punks managed, including themselves, to this extent at least. Punk had a reputation for being puckish and dumb, with those reluctant to change or move with times initially tarring the creators of such music as untalented and stupid. But as punk evolved into post-punk and new wave, such blind detractors were often left eating their own words, perhaps nowhere more stunningly than when London Calling hit the shelves in 1979.
There’s a dizzying array of cosmopolitan styles and genres mixed and interlaced together, carefully built on top of urgent punk foundations. There’s a musical intelligence here; a sound crafted by inexcusably talented and ambitious musicians, that ends up drifting away from its roots so much by incorporating the roots of their collective influences. Listening to London Calling may lead one to initially assume that this isn’t punk at all, what with the blend of roots, rockabilly, reggae, ska and countless other intercontinental splashes, but through its unification of such disparate sources, and once enriched by the stabbing political messages thread throughout, one begins to see just how clever The Clash were. It’s not punk music in the sense of 3 chords, dumb rock, as it rarely touches on such ground, but it still has a fiery punk spirit undercutting each and every outing, and through its adaptation of foreign musical styles, the sound becomes more political and revolutionary than any punk band has sounded before, in mere musical terms at least. With London Calling, The Clash broke off into post-punk, but through the album’s intelligent mix of styles, they’ve also dragged the pure guts of punk along with them, and in the process, transcended the genre’s limits to an unprecedented standard.
It’s an epic manifesto too, with a whopping 19 tracks and an hour of disc space. There’s virtually an iconic song every other track or so – the nightmarish, post-apocalyptic tension of ‘London Calling’; the sense of urgency and suffocated anger on ‘The Guns of Brixton’; the guitar pop meets political ramblings of ‘Spanish Bombs’; not to mention the delights of other grade A tracks such as the jerky ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, the consumerist attack of ‘Lost in the Supermarket’, the metallic ‘Clampdown’, and the anthemic ‘Death or Glory’. There’s quality, vibrancy, urgency, thrills and hooks consistent throughout the entire track-list, ultimately, and when you strip away deep analysis or historical importance, this is what truly matters, and here, The Clash did nothing but nail making an enduring, influential and truly classic album – pile on top the aforementioned deeper levels present and the historic musical importance of this double LP, and we finally arrive at my humble declaration of just why all those inclusions in the upper echelons of ‘greatest ever albums’ lists make complete and utter sense. London Calling is a musical revolution, and simply one of the most stunning rock albums of all time.