Do you measure how good an album is by looking at how much filler it has, or by looking at the actual number of cuts that are extraordinary? That is the key question many ask themselves when they have to analyze this triple album, issued by The Clash in 1980. The previous release (London Calling, 1979) already had found them pushing boundaries by being a two-record set that included far, far more than the punk offerings that many had already associated with them.
Strummer & Co. were always the kind to stick to the “nothing ventured, nothing gained” ethos, and it was only natural they would continue taking steps forward. This particular step forward is what John Alroy calls an “anything goes” mentality. I think it is best to term it an “anything that speaks to us goes” mentality. Just listen to the single “Hitsville UK”, about a band that does not necessarily succeed but makes people happy for doing what it does (IE, playing music), and the terms of the gamble The Clash had taken this time around become all the more understandable.
The range of styles across the 6 sides of Sandinista! is as encompassing as you can imagine. Note that there are few rock songs around, and the ones available do not necessarily deliver. The one exception is their cover of Eddie Grant’s “Police On My Back”. I do like “Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)” if only because it showcases the band’s ability to tackle important issues (in this case, the tower blocks that blighted England and the living conditions therein), and I can say the same about “Somebody Got Murdered”. But the latter song highlights how far gone Topper was on heroin. He was to take a permanent leave after the next album – in hindsight, the other members of The Clash have equaled his departure with the beginning of the end for them all. Continue reading