For nearly a decade, the Clash was arguably the greatest rock ‘n roll band in the world.
More than 25 years after their departure from the scene, the Clash remain one of the most influential forces in rock. Their early LPs were masterpieces that still resonate today.
But their final album, Cut the Crap, was dismissed as a colossal disappointment upon its release in 1985. The album was released as a follow-up to Combat Rock, the Clash’s most commercially successful work.
But commercial success was always frowned-upon by those in the punk movement, which was spawned as a rebellion against the bloated art-rock and disco genres.
Apparently, Clash front man Joe Strummer had all the commercial accolades he could handle with Combat Rock, which contained “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” and “Rock the Casbah.” He kicked guitarist and songwriting partner Mick Jones out of the band. Strummer, it seemed, wanted the group to go back to its roots—he wanted to cut the crap.
Strummer accomplished exactly what he wanted with his new bandmates, as there are no commercial songs on the final work from the Clash.
It’s evident that something’s missing. Jones is sorely missed here. His guitar work and smooth backing vocals, along with his songwriting, are absent. While the entire LP has a political message (like all of the band’s work), Strummer hopelessly fails to return to the band’s original raw, fresh sound.
Strummer and this Clash line-up also fail to assemble a coherent work. Sure, Strummer’s lyrics are biting—if the listener can cut through the noisy synthesizers to understand them. The Clash fail to Cut the Crap and the only saving graces here are “We are The Clash,” which sounds more like a soccer rallying cry than a political statement, and “This is England,” which is a portrait of the dark side of the country.
Those two tracks keep the LP from being a total washout. Cut the Crap attempts to explore the plight of Great Britain’s working class, but it fails there, too, because it’s simply a jumbled mess.
For any other group, Cut the Crap might be an admirable effort, but not for the Clash.
In fact, the album appears to be little more than a mockery of the band and the entire punk movement that brought us such classics as Give ‘em Enough Rope and London Calling.
The album, which peaked in Billboard’s Top 100, is now rare in the United States. It may only be a keeper for Clash fans. It’s definitely not one for punk rock purists. Perhaps “North and South,” Cut the Crap’s 11th track, sadly gets it right with its refrain … There’s going to be a burnout…
There was a burnout and it was Cut the Crap and it was The Clash. And it was Joe Strummer, who sullies the reputation that he worked so hard to create.