Tuesday, 16 August 2005
I have always gone against the popular critical outlook when it comes to double albums by big bands. Many fans and critics, for instance, argued that The White Album would have been better if it were released as a single album. "Sacrilegious!" I say. I can't think of many examples where I prefer a single album by a band who has released a double album. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, The Clash. Best albums? The White Album, Blonde On Blonde, Exile On Main St., London Calling (respectively). All killer no filler? Well, no. All of these albums have filler, albeit surprisingly little in most cases. Mostly, however, the filler simply adds to the charm of these brilliant albums. Double albums gave artists the much needed breathing space that they didn't have with LPs, allowing them to experiment a little and dip their toes into musical waters they wouldn't normally swim in within the confines of a single LP. Even if a song doesn't work on a double album, the listener can relax, knowing that there's "plenty more when that came from".
London Calling is a very unique double album as it has surprisingly little filler. The Clash took a big risk with this album, releasing a 19-track 65-minute album that went completely against the punk roots of their previous two albums. This album encompasses a sprawling array of musical genres - there's jazz (Jimmy jazz), rockabilly (Brand new cadillac), ska (Hateful, Rudie can't fail, Wrong 'em boyo), reggae (The guns of Brixton), pop (Train in vain, Spanish bombs, Lost in the supermarket), punk (London calling, Clampdown, Death or glory, Koka kola) and even an epic tale of deceit (The card cheat). Yes, this album has it ALL. And unlike their extremely patchy follow up Sandinista, it ALL works.
The 8-song run from Jimmy Jazz to The guns of Brixton is one of the greatest sequences of music ever released. Classics, the lot of them. The tunes! The lyrics! The energy! The passion! On most of the songs on this album, it sounds like these guys are simply having a hell of a lot of fun trying out new stuff. It's like they had all this creative energy bottled up and they exploded this energy on to four sides of vinyl.
All killer no filler? Sure is. And 65 minutes of it to boot!