A lot has been written about this here three-LP edition of the Clash’s ‘Combat Rock’ originally released in 1982 and the last to feature the classic line up however the album whilst containing a few stand-out tracks never hit the dizzy heights of its previous releases.

With an incredible 17 show residency at New York’s Bond’s Casino in the bag, the band set about rehearsing at The People’s Hall in the Latimer Road area of London thereafter they headed to Asia for a tour where the artwork was shot by the band’s photographer Pennie Smith as it goes.  This release of ‘Combat Rock’ includes unheard, rare, and early versions of tracks spread out over two albums and the original ‘Combat Rock’ however the final side is blank! Nada, nuffink not even an etching of ‘Know Your Rights’ Which left me feeling a little cheated. I might be being a bit fussy here but it could have contained a side of the best tracks from Bonds as a live side which might have been sufficient but nothing?

Anyway, I digress. Whilst having many a discussion about what constitutes a classic album and especially a classic Clash album nobody ever says ‘Combat Rock’ that I’m sure however when you drop the needle on side one and that familiar Echo of Strummers clanging reverb-laden guitar kicks in and his equally reverb-laden vocal introduces ‘Know Your Rites’ with “This is a public service…announcement – With guitars!”. I still get quite excited when the track sparks to life with Strummer’s rasping vocal as he rattles off your rites. It’s hypnotic and captivating to this day from the shots that fire off Jones’s guitar to the snap of the Heddon snare ‘Know Your Rights’ is a great tune and those rites still stand up to this day shame our government has no respect for them anymore. Strummer would spin in his grave I’m sure of that.

After the turn down leftfield, that was ‘Sandonista’ with all its headfuckery and musical veins that pumped life into a sprawling record that to this day has me scratching my head as to whether it’s a work of genius or the band is fucking with me different days offer different answers.

From the tweaks and funk of ‘Rock The Casbah’ Strummer was penning some fantastic lyrics and the band still had some fire inside them that they were able to express onto vinyl. They weren’t the same band who had led a generation into revolt at the tail end of the 70s they were indeed older and wiser. They’d seen the world and what was on offer and had soaked it up like a sponge. The dub and NYC had left a big impression on the band from hip hop to pop art and the sprawling metropolis that was Manhatten was a long way from London. ‘Red Angel Dragnet’ was all of this inspiration bleeding out onto the tape.

One of my favourite Clash songs is the magnificent ‘Straight To Hell’ from its rhythmic, atmospheric arrangement to Strummer’s vocal delivery and some brilliant lyrics it still sends chills down my spine. I always liked the bands changing image and the cool London urchins in their suits of London Calling had gone as had the Westwood fatigues of the spraypaint slogans and in were a united military mad max look and I vividly look back on seeing the ‘Rock The Casbah’ video and liking it from the great big ghetto blasters to the berets and camo fatigues and Strummers Taxi Driver haircut. The Clash were still cooler than most and that’s a fact!

‘Atom Tom’ is a great tune and even the weird dub-inspired dope-induced mish-mash of ‘Sean Flynn’ and ‘Ghetto Defendant’ are cinematic and experimental. ‘Inoculated City’ is a Big Audio Dynamite slice of pop from the guitar of Jones using the Glyn Jones samples no doubt. Not as strong a side as Side One but nevertheless a nice trip of a record I’ve not played in quite a while.

The real lure of this album probably isn’t going to be the remastered ‘Combat Rock’ but the other material not including the ‘Outside Bonds’ intro. Pfft I’m not sure why that took up five minutes of wax either. The funky ‘Radio Clash’ with alt lyrics is, however, exactly why I bought this record. Funky as fuck and from the slap bass to different lyrics its a window into a world we never thought possible.

‘Radio One’, ‘He Who Dares’, ‘Long Time Jerk’ is fascinating for Clash geeks no doubt about it. I love ‘Midnight To Stevens’ but the seven-plus minutes of ‘Sean Flynn’ almost fried my brain. All in all a right mixed bag is it worth the almost £50 price tag? Probably not it’s not in some fancy sleeve and the inner bag artwork is half decent and maybe I was expecting a bit more or a lot more I don’t know. It’s The Clash they are special and I couldn’t say no. Give it a listen on a streaming platform – you have a right. you also have a right to walk on by stay or go, but one thing you can’t deny is the Clash, as a unit, were formidable, adventurous and always up for a challenge to themselves and their fans. They follow their hearts and only dance to their own tune one thing I know for sure is there won’t be another of their kind not now not ever some have tried but all have failed.

Clash completists roll up and open your wallets this is something you must own. Oh, the poster is pretty cool as well. Buy Here

Author: Dom Daley