When Joe Strummer led The Clash to glory in the late ’70s, the group’s originality so shocked the music world that people actually lumped the band in the same group as the Sex Pistols.
With the Mescaleros, Strummer has made music equally difficult to classify. 2001’s Global a Go-Go ended up being called “world music,” a term only slightly less loathsome than “punk.”
Streetcore, like the previous record, draws from varied musical sources, but this time most of them come from the Western Hemisphere. Lead track “Coma Girl” goes from a rock chorus to offbeat upstroke reggae verses. “Get Down Moses” has a bluesy lead guitar intro and a heavy, grooving dub bass line.
The record works best when tugging the heartstrings left from Strummer’s death at 50 last December. On a cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” Rick Rubin adds classy production and a minimalist piano accompaniment (Rubin knows how to make a cover-see Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”). Rubin’s touch and Joe’s legendary voice make the speakers ring when Strummer hits the low note at the end of the chorus.
On the last track, “Silver and Gold,” Strummer sings, “I’m gonna take a trip around the world / I’m gonna kiss all the pretty girls / I’ll do everything silver and gold / I got to hurry up before I grow too old,” before the song ends abruptly after just two and a half minutes.
Some of the songs on the record have jams that drag on a bit and some have choruses that get repeated a few too many times. But when “Silver and Gold” ends so quickly, it feels like it’s over too soon – the song, the record, everything.
[In Travis Hunter’s heaven Joe stands at the gates and Johnny sits at the throne.]