Essential Clash

Since The Clash's demise, there have been many compilations of their work; unfortunately, most of them sound like they were sequenced with a dartboard. This two-disc collection, organized roughly chronologically, finally does them justice: The first disc shows the young Clash as the best rock band in the world: passionate, tough and tuneful. If those early punk songs don't have the shock now they once did — "White Riot" can be found on karaoke machines these days — they still can straighten your spine. The hint of reggae in "(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais" becomes the story of the second disc, as the group heads in all directions at once: funk, dub, the top of the charts. The coda is "This Is England," the Clash's lost classic: Joe Strummer looks around him, his country and band both in ruins, and spits in the eye of the world.

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