Monday, 15 October 2018
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Streetcore (2003)
Released October 2003
Recorded in Monmouth, Wales
1. Coma Girl
2. Get Down Moses
3. Long Shadow
4. Arms Aloft
5. Ramshackle Day Parade
6. Redemption Song
7. All In A Day
8. Burnin' Streets
9. Midnight Jam
10. Before I Grow Too Old (Silver And Gold)
I never knew quite how to categorise Joe Strummer’s solo work, or how to describe it. It is a mixture of dub-reggae influence dread bass beats, Americana, world music vibes, classic rock riffs in places, “London Calling” Clash echoes, intoxicating rhythms, and, of course Strummer’s slightly garbled vocals. While many his songs had so much of a hook, I could never quite get what they meant. Take the rousing, infectious “Coma Girl”, for example, one of my favourite songs of his. It is about being at Glastonbury it seems, but much of the song is a collection of wonderful images that probably only meant something to Strummer. Still, Dylan songs are mostly like that so he was in good company. The song is also very Springsteen-esque in its “Mona Lisa from a motorcycle gang…” lyrical imagery. I never tire of listening to it. It has an uplifting quality to it.
The dubby, punchy grind of the beguiling, rhythmic “Get Down Moses” is similar - great sound but what it was about who knew - indeed who really cares? It sounded fantastic. The thing about Strummer’s lyrics (as I mentioned on the review for his first solo album) is they always sounded vaguely political, meaningful and street-suss and highly credible, even though their meaning was not always apparent. “Moses” has a huge big, thumping bass reverberating beat and some killer guitar and brass in it too and Joe growls convincingly about the “walls of Jericho…”. Songs like this give you an idea of what The Clash would have sounded like if they had continued. There are hints of some of the material on "Combat Rock" in this, and "Sandinista!" for that matter. It would have fitted in well on either album.
"The Long Shadow" is an acoustic country rock song with Strummer doing his best Johnny Cash impersonation in places. The vocal doesn't quite convince, though, and sounds a bit contrived, I have to say. After the impressive opening two tracks, it is not quite up there with them. That is a minor criticism, though. Lyrically, it has influences from Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" album. There's some Billy Bragg in there too. “Arms Aloft”, however, is one of the best, rockiest cuts on the album, with a sumptuous New Order-esque bass line at the beginning before it launches into a grainy, punky chorus. “Ramshackle Day Parade” sounds like something from the old “side two” of “Combat Rock”. It is another track full with portentous lyrics that sound as if they are really warning of something terrible, spat out by Strummer’s throaty growl over some industrial guitars and insistent drums. It loses itself a bit at the end and gets a bit drowned out by a mass chorus, however.
One of the saddest songs on this album, which was to be Strummer’s very last before his untimely passing is his evocative cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”. It brings tears to my eyes, to be honest. Strummer and Marley, both taken too damn soon.
“All In A Day” is very reminiscent of old bandmate Mick Jones’ Big Audio Dynamite, full of frenetic dance rhythm drums, a wonderful rubbery bass, Jones-esque guitar riffs and B.A.D.-style backing vocals. “Burnin’ Streets” has an anthemic quality to it. “Midnight Jam” is a “Sandinista!”-style instrumental, with a few sampled vocals floating around its heavy rhythms. The album ends with a cover version of an old blues/Americana song, “Silver And Gold” and it is just so sad to think this was Joe’s last song. “I’ve got to hurry up before I grow too old…” is his last sung line. Then he says “ok that’s a take”. It was a take Joe, like all those great takes. Cheers.