Friday, December 11, 2020

rebel waltz for the end of time

Well, it's a been a strange week of writing and a strange week of listening: Harold Budd and The Clash. Specifically, Sandinista! which is 40 years old roundabout now.  Here's my piece for Tidal on the Clash's fan-perplexing triple - which must be their least-listened record (well, apart from Cut the Crappy) but which makes for a surprisingly listenable listen for streaming-era ears. 

Talking about not listening to things, I once included Sandinista! in a fun little piece I did for Spin in  1991-  a list of Most Underrated Albums of All Time. However I'm not honestly sure I'd heard the album, or at least all of it. I was probably going by my affection for "The Call Up" and "The Magnificent Seven" and having heard other bits round someone's house. It's not a record that can be listened to in a single sitting, especially in those days of vinyl - all that getting up and removing another disc from the sleeve, or flipping over the platter. 

However, having listened to it multiple times for this piece, I concluded that I was right all along and it is underrated - found many things I liked and that seemed interestingly un-Clash-like (the worst stuff is the default Clash-mode tunes, especially the "Stay Free"-like Mick Jones numbers). When it is dire, it is oh so dire. But on balance, I'd rather listen to it - all six sides of it - than London Calling, a record I've never clicked with, despite loving "Lost in the Supermarket" and finding the title track to be compelling in its somewhat histrionic overwrought way (it's a very original sounding single, isn't it - can't think of anything else that has like that stiff, martial, slashing gait). But all the other stuff on Calling bound up with  rock 'n 'roll history, the Clash embracing America... songs about Montgomery Clift.... - do me a favor. For all its flawed sprawl, Sandinista! is a much more forward-facing and outward-looking album. 

My favorite track on it provides an unlikely point of contiguity with the late Harold 

"Rebel Waltz' also reminds me - not just because of the title, but the spidery feel of the music - of this instrumental by The Band that closes out The Last Waltz. But where the Band tune is an abomination of twee and dinky fit to get you puking, "Rebel Waltz" is eerie and poignant. 

Sprawl boiled to best bits 


I described this as "a panoramic lament for boy soldiers all across the world heading off to an early grave" -  actually that's more appropriate to "Straight To Hell", in this case "a lament for boy soldiers all across history who headed off to an early grave" would be more accurate (Strummer sings "All the young people down the ages /They gladly marched off to die")

Apparently Mr. Dread felt he should have been given a producer's credit for his contributions - for a period, the fifth member of the Clash effectively.