Thursday, March 6, 2003
The Essential Clash
Epic | Legacy
Make no mistake--with very few exceptions, all of the Clash's music is essential. No other rock band in history, not even the founding fathers like the Beatles or the Stones reached as far and attempted so much. That they fell on their faces in public many times doesn't lessen their tremendous output.
The screw-ups are mostly deleted here, that is, the more redundant riff-rocky stuff from their second American disc, as well as a lot of the filler from Sandanista, their triple-disc a-go-go. But it does overlook some gems, like "The Call-Up" and London Calling's under-rated and mostly forgotten "Hateful". Included as the only surprise is the Mick Jones-less "This Is England", their mournful elegy to country, and, as it turned out, to the Clash itself.
But their classic hits are all accounted for, some in their single mixes. That's the kicker, the raison d'etre to buy the thing, one assumes, because any real Clash fan has pretty much everything and then some by now. On their way to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, their leader on his way to Valhalla, the Clash were about as close to perfect for six straight years (1977-1983) as any band ever was, sustaining their genius at high density and intensity. If you have nothing else of theirs, this would be more than worth your time.
A lifetime ago, Muggs was the man behind sociopathic masterpieces like "How I Could Just Kill a Man" and "Insane In the Brain", the motor and mouthpiece of Cypress Hill. Hip-hop stoners and beat maniacs they are and were, as is Muggs' side band, the Soul Assassins. But this solo offering is the absolute opposite of those ensembles and their noise--reflective and pretty, Dust borders on ambient, borrowing from Bjork n' Bowie. If you didn't see his name on the disc, you'd never have a clue as to the artiste's identity.
Like little bits of pop and sizzle that come and go with more than a little elegance, Muggs tosses female vocals, strings, deep sound effects, lite drum loopery and whtever suits his fancy into this soundtrack-like mix. Of note: "Morta", spaghetti-western loveliness and the almost Keith Richards-esque ballad "Faded"--it's almost as if Muggs was out to prove there's nothing he cannot do, or will not do.
He speaks of the birth of his first child (on his website, not in the liners) as a life-changing experience and it's all over the music here. Kudos for letting the world in--other artists might just stick to their hard-ass personae until no one was buying anymore. This is a gem, a find, a real picker-upper of a shock and surprise.
Mr. Airplane Man
Sympathy For The Record Industry
Two musicians, neither of them bass players, primal noise with ringy vocals and it isn't a White Stripes disc--so what gives?
Mr. Airplane Man--gender contary to the expected, is a Boston-based female duo who covers Mississippi Fred MacDowell, Howlin' Wolf and the gospel/blues/folk standard "Jesus on the Mainline" and fill up the aural space like a Chicago band circa 1958 about as accurately as can be expected. While the idea that Margaret Garrett and Tara McManus are indeed a "blues White Stripes", it would be fairer to say that their sources go back a lot further, in terms of their roots and hometown--Boston has always been a breeding ground for quirky takes on the tried and true and Mr. Airplane Man is no exception (nor, for that matter is the current queen of pop, Norah Jones, who is actually a closer comparison than the WS's).
It's eerie, reverberant and best of all, not studied as much as it is soulfully punched out. The rockier tracks don't miss the lowdown that much and the quiet moments aren't that far removed from the best folk music available. A real gem.