Music Reviews

Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

Streetcore

Hellcat

When listening to the posthumous works of a departed icon, there always exists the fear that your judgment will be clouded by emotion, and you’ll end up championing a work that in retrospect turns out to be at best minor. So when the word hit that Streetcore was on the way, you might have held your breath, wondering if it could deliver the goods. Because, to be fair about it, Strummer’s post-Clash work has been spotty (although against such a standard, most anything would be). So you spin it.

Son of a bitch, this bastard died too young.

This is a triumphant, engaging, consistently great record. Meshing as he always did multiple strains of music, from punk to reggae/dub and country (often in the same song), Strummer saved his best for last. The opener, “Coma Girl,” has smash written all over it, much in the fashion of the Clash’s “Train in Vain” and such. “Midnight Jam” lopes along straight out of Jamaica (via Strummer’s “London Calling” world music show on the BBC), while “Ramshackle Day Parade,” with its Apple Venus-era XTC style chorus, has all the hallmarks of Joe’s love of the pop language.

But it’s impossible to not hear many of the songs here without thinking of his untimely death. “Long Shadow,” written for Johnny Cash, fits Strummer and his contributions as well as it does Cash. “Redemption Song,” the Marley eulogy, is positively chilling with Strummer amid a bed of acoustic guitars. But the moment that hits hardest, and reminds you the most of why Joe Strummer mattered, is from “Arms Aloft”:

And just when you were thinkin’ about slinking down/ I’m gonna pull ya up/ I’m gonna pull you round”

Because in the end, that’s a large measure of what Joe Strummer did. He never lagged. He never forgot us. And we’ll never forget him.

Hellcat Records: http://www.hell-cat.com/


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