Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros: Global A Go-Go

The coolest man on the planet is back in action.

Joe and the Pesky Meskys are back with their second release on Hellcat records. Lest there be any illusions on my feelings for Mr. Strummer, the statement above alone should shatter them. Strummer and the Clash are, in my eyes, the most important figures in the history of punk rock. Well, at least in the Top 5. So, when Joe signed with Hellcat a few years ago and released his first album, “Rock, Art and the X-Ray Style,” I was ecstatic. I bought the album and liked it quite a bit. I got pretty much what I expected – an eclectic mix of styles and experiments with world music/beats (Caribbean, African, South American) glued together by that familiar Strummer vocal style.

I was, however, somewhat surprised by the backlash by some of the ‘fans.’ Joe has always pushed the Clash beyond three-chord punk rock into reggae, rockabilly, rap and numerous other musical style, to mixed-reviews, but as always, it’s the people’s vote that matters: They say when “Sandinista” was released, you could walk around in Brooklyn and hear strains of early rap pioneers alongside “The Magnificent Seven” blasting out from the ghettos and street corners. Joe isn’t going to remain stagnant and he isn’t going to release an album like the first Clash LP, so get over it.

That said, “Global A Go-Go” is a fairly accurate title. Global is the scope and also the musical style. The album encompasses the aforementioned different music genres and a wealth of musical instruments, mixes and dubs, as did its predecessor. Starting with the almost folksy “Johnny Appleseed” you can tell Joe and the boys are in top form. “Cool ‘N’ Out’ sounds like it could’ve come off “Sandanista” with it’s dubby overtones and almost techno-ish backbeat, with Joe dropping science over a horn section in the background. The title track rocks out again with a world-ish type beat, complete with the raging bongos. “Bhindi Bhagee” is an example of an African/Caribbean-style rocker. Joe mixes balladry, like on “Mondo Bongo” and experimentation and rockers throughout, closing with a 17:00 version of the old Irish song “The Minstrel Boy” which is a masterpiece. Joe’s vocals are ethereal, far in the background, almost ghostly, fitting the subject matter perfectly, while the tune itself gets a more dubby/techno-ish mix: A song and an album with a vision and a message – many messages. Just what you would expect from ol’ Joe. So it goes with this eclectic album.

Judging by the reviews posted on Hell-cat.com, most fans get what Joe is doing, but you have the occasional mug who posts something along the ridiculous lines of: “ok I really dont like this album cuz its like fucking folk and country and shit but I wouldnt talk shit about the Clash if I had fucking gun to my head the Clash was awesome” (an actual post.) Wow. How eloquent and introspective, considering the Clash loved and utilized both folk and country. Oh well, if the Offspring t-shirt wearing mall-punks don’t like this, than it’s all the more punk in my opinion. Before the release of his first album for Hellcat, Joe said “this aint no kiddie rockabilly” and he’s right. He’s older, more mature and shouldn’t be expected to re-write albums he wrote in his twenties. Tunnel vision is the enemy of good music, he believes. To quote Joe “Whether it’s jazz or punk or anything else, you have to fight against the purists who want to narrow the definition. That’s what kills music because it stifles it to death.”

http://www.joestrummer.com/

September 2001

Review by Sean Holland

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