The Singles (Epic/Legacy)
It was always easy to love the Clash. After forming in the shadow of the sneering Sex Pistols, they rapidly surpassed them as musicians; when they came to the U.S. they showed a generation of Ramones-fed fans that punk could be more than 4/4 beats, exposing them to everything from rockabilly to rocksteady. We admire the Clash for all that. It’s not why we love the Clash. We love Mick Jones and Joe Strummer because they were the spit-shine reflection of cool (Paul Simonon smashing his bass on the cover of London Calling is still one of rock’s most iconic images), effortlessly graceful in their revolution rock, and most of all, gifted in their ability to write song after anthemic song, inspiring hundreds of bands to start riots of their own.
And we’re not the only ones, if this new reissue box (available in both CD and original 7-inch form) is any indication. Housing all of the band’s 19 U.K. singles packaged in replica sleeves of the originals, it’s a gold mine for rarities collectors (the “Capital Radio” EP, originally a giveaway by London’s NME magazine, is even here), and there are a handful of fine B-sides and dubs (check out the remixes of “The Magnificent Seven,” as well as a previously unavailable live cut of “London’s Burning”). But what makes Singles worth having isn’t just the music, but the 44-page companion booklet of celebrity mini-essays on each song (Pete Townshend, Mike D and the Edge are just a few of the contributors). Take Irvine Welsh listening to “Clash City Rockers”: “I feel a shiver down my spine and nearly 30 years seems to have been shed. I love it so much.”—Antonia Simigis