WOWEE ZOWEE (48)
November 28, 2018
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the subject of our favorite albums of the Nineties (1994–2003). A new installment in this series will appear each Wednesday during 2018.
The problem with having an iconic band is you become your band. Whatever you did before, whatever you did after, tends to disappear. The solo albums are for the fan club. When you mature, people don’t pay attention.
I was a Clash fan from the womb, my mother having seen The Clash in Hollywood in 1982. So when Joe Strummer died shockingly at 50, I was heartbroken. Time stopped. The lead singer of The Clash, a band so cool I felt nervous to say their name for fear of being outed as a pretender to coolness, wasn’t around to make music anymore.
A year later, Streetcore was released, and I was furious. Joe Strummer was making new music for four whole years and I didn’t know? I could have seen him live and nobody told me?
Take me back, I thought. Not a long way back, just a couple years back. So I can recover my dream of seeing him fill a room with sound.
Letting go of that dream meant mainlining Streetcore. For years.
It’s not a great album. But it suggests a great album. Listening to Streetcore is listening to the mystery of what a Clash reunion may have sounded like, what Joe Strummer’s future may have been. In silhouette it shows you something most people, most Clash fans, don’t know exists: Joe Strummer in the 21st century.
It’s not finished, of course. It was completed posthumously with table scraps; instrumentals, spec songs for films. Deeply embarrassing is his cover of “Redemption Song,” which shouldn’t exist.
But the album stuns nonetheless.
First with “Coma Girl,” where Joe Strummer finds his voice again. It rolls like Tom Petty and jangles like The Byrds, but it’s his, because he got his joy back. The last minute may be the single finest minute of sound he ever recorded. It’s pure Telecaster burn, the last great “do-lang do-lang” in pop, summer with the rag-top down.
Then it’s “Get Down Moses,” which is as good at being a new Clash song as any Clash song was, a blood and guts apocalypse stomp to the walls of Jericho.
But the miracle is the closer, Fats Domino’s “Before I Grow Too Old.” A guy singing soft, to himself maybe, over an acoustic and fiddle about dancing and seeing the city lights. A whisper, a lullaby, it turned out Joe Strummer didn’t even need a Telecaster.
WOWEE ZOWEE: Stephanie Burt on UNISEX | Anindita Basu Sempere on UNDER THE PINK | Mark Kingwell on DUMMY | Bill Nericcio on AMOR PROHIBIDO | Sherri Wasserman on HIPS AND MAKERS | Mimi Lipson on THANK YOU | John Overholt on BEN FOLDS FIVE | Jordan Ellenberg on GET LOST | Chelsey Johnson on PERSONAL BEST | Marilyn Snell on MAXINQUAYE | Dan Fox on DIFFERENT CLASS | Devin McKinney on IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER | Alice Boone on MTV UNPLUGGED (ALICE IN CHAINS) | Rob Wringham on SPICE | Joe Alterio on BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE | Jason Loeffler on SECOND TOUGHEST IN THE INFANTS | Rick Pinchera on EITHER/OR | Josh Glenn on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST | Jennifer Krasinski on SUPA DUPA FLY | Sara Ryan on DIG ME OUT | Luc Sante on MEZZANINE | Molly Wright Steenson on I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE | Franklin Bruno on ENGLAND MADE ME | Michael Campochiaro on IS THIS DESIRE? | Adrienne Crew on CALIFORNICATION | Drew Daniel on I SEE A DARKNESS | Veda Hille on THE SOFT BULLETIN | Vanessa Berry on TEENAGE SNUFF FILM | Tom Kipp on GET SKINTIGHT | David Hirmes on DOPETHRONE | John Hilgart on YORK BLVD. | Deborah Wassertzug on JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT | Adam McGovern on INVINCIBLE SUMMER | Brian Berger on TIRED SOUNDS OF… | Michael Grasso on MUSIC HAS THE RIGHT TO CHILDREN | Jen Collins on HURRAH | Flourish Klink on THE TEACHES OF PEACHES | Judith Zissman on TALLAHASSEE | Lauren Oliver on SOUND-DUST | Jason Cohen on IS THIS IT | Matthew De Abaitua on THE RAINBOW CHILDREN | Jenny Davidson on TIME (THE REVELATOR) | Crystal Durant on LIVE THROUGH THIS | Gordon Dahlquist on GARBAGE | Erin M. Routson on WASHING MACHINE | Carl Wilson on TEMPTING | Jessamyn West on ALL HAIL WEST TEXAS | Kaleb Horton on STREETCORE | Tom Nealon on BAZOOKA TOOTH | Erik Davis on DOPESMOKER | David Levine on FEVER TO TELL | Deb Chachra on MASS ROMANTIC.
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