Columbia Records' crass reworking of the Clash's thunderous 1977 album for the U.S. market somehow holds together as punk rock keystone. It was fabricated in 1979 after the band scored a hit with their energetic cover of the Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought The Law." That single and two others from 1978 make it a virtual greatest hits album, cataloguing everything that made the early English punk movement fresh and exciting: blazing guitars, uncompromisingly basic arrangements, shredded, from-the-gut vocals, and lyrics full of anarchistic political rage. All of this soon became so routinized that today the formula's most striking feature is its old-time rock-and-roll showmanship: surprisingly smooth backing vocals, deliberate and melodic bass lines, crisp and crafted pentatonic guitar solos, catchy sing-along refrains, the whole deal.
Needless to say, it's one of my favorite rock classics. Whether you buy the U.S. or the U.K. version, it bristles with energy and wit. "Clash City Rockers," "I'm So Bored With The USA," "Complete Control," "London's Burning," "I Fought The Law," and "Career Opportunities" pretty much delineate the roots of punk rock with its chanted, snarling vocals, guitar solos, and attitude. And certainly, it still sounds fresh all these years later. Basically, if you haven't heard this album and you say you're a "punk fan," you're just a snot-nosed twerp.