August 2022 Pop/Rock Record Reviews

The Clash: Combat Rock + The People's Hall
Columbia 19439955131 (LP). 1982/2022. The Clash and Glyn Johns, prods.; Andrew Davitt, the Clash, and Tim Young, engs.
Performance ****
Sonics ****

When you've sung "Ha! You think it's funny, turning rebellion into money!," it can be problematic when you start scoring major hits. With the Clash, it wasn't funny; their success increased tensions and led to the band splitting up. Music labels rarely have such qualms, and 40 years later Combat Rock gets the deluxe treatment, with 1½ sides of The People's Hall, with rarities and previously unreleased material.

The remastering gives the mix slightly more oomph, but a great album remains a great album. Of more interest are the extras. What, though, is this trend of half an album? One side of The People's Hall is blank. Couldn't they find anything to fill it? Combat Rock was first mixed as a double album, by Mick Jones, with longer songs; Glyn Jones was hired to shorten them. What happened to the originals? Saved for a rainy (Record Store) Day?

The Clash being the Clash, there's an occasional misfire. "Outside Bonds" is a recording of people talking about bonds. Outside. No doubt, it was intended as a political statement, but Noam Chomsky it ain't. Still, the band's desire to take risks and explore styles is a joy. Sometimes they mix styles in one song, as on the skiffle-meets-Motown instrumental, "He Who Dares or Is Tired." In "The Fulham Connection (aka The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too)," the boys try out bossa nova, west London style.

Mick Jones was an early rap proselytizer; one of the standout tracks is graffiti artist Futura 2000's rap over Simonon's bass on "Futura 2000." Alternative versions can sometimes be a mistake, but the funkier "This Is Radio Clash," with different lyrics, and the dub-tinged "Know Your Rights" are, for me, better than the originals.

Taken together, the 2½ sides are a wonderful addition to the Clash canon. Once again, the Clash's rebellion has been turned into money, but it's fun.—Phil Brett


Wet Leg: Wet Leg
Domino Records. WIGLP496 (LP). 2022. Dan Carey, Jon McMullen, prods.; Alexis Smith, Joshua Mobaraki, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

Great debut albums that grab the listener and don't let go are members of an elite club. Wet Leg has joined it, with a gold membership card. This is a thrilling album, with fun tattooed across it.

The band was formed by long-time friends, guitarist/vocalists Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers. The two women are the group's heart, soul, mind, and sense of humor.

Coming from the Isle of Wight may have something to do with how fresh they sound. Even allowing for its famous festival, the little island on the south coast of England is hardly known as the center of rock'n'roll—quiet family holidays in trailers maybe, but not R'n'R. There was no big scene on the island in need of a style or outlook.

Here, the two women are joined by Henry Holmes (drums), Michael Champion (bass), and Dan Cary (synths). The latter also produces, and his production, like his work with Goat Girl, is unfussy; he lets the band play and do its thing.

The key thing is exuberance. It's an ever-present contributor, even on the melancholier numbers such as "I Don't Wanna Go Out." Most of the tracks, though, are upfront and bouncy, to be enjoyed, sung along to, and danced to. Songs such as "Chaise Longue" and "Oh No" glory in the joy of pop, never taking themselves too seriously. In this respect, they remind me of the Undertones. But, also like that group, that doesn't mean they're not to be taken seriously. The lyrics might dwell on the mundane, like this, from "Too Late Now"—"I don't need no radio, no MTV, no BBC / I just need a bubble bath to send me on a higher path"—but they tell the story of real life. And real life is rarely pink Cadillacs.

If Stereophile had a ranking for Life-Affirming, Wet Leg would get a 5. I'll give it a 5 anyway, for "Performance."—Phil Brett

Wakulla409's picture

The track "Outside Bonds" is recorded outside Bond International Casino, near Times Square, where The Clash played a celebrated 17-night run of concerts in 1981, behind the release of "Sandinista!" It doesn't have anything to do with the stock market.

partain's picture

I'me 73 and have listened to an album or two .
I've never come across a debut album as good as this one. Even the " GREATS" have some filler on even their premier albums , but there's no bad music here . Their concert videos on YouTube are remarkable .
Pure fun .