Look Back In Anger

Worth purchasing for Joe Strummer's occasionally improvised lyrics alone.

It's no surprise that "Complete Control" (RealAudio

excerpt) kicks off this collection of live tracks from the archetypal

white rioters. Produced by reggae dub maestro Lee "Scratch" Perry, "Complete

Control" made punk rock (not just its booming, grandiose sound but its

revolutionary promise as well) seem bigger than the outside world. Give

or take "Anarchy in the UK" or X-Ray Spex's ideological roadblock "Oh

Bondage! Up Yours!," it's the greatest punk single of all time.

Of course, like most of the first-wavers, these eternal guttersnipes failed

to gain even partial control of their careers, much less the outside world,

and nowhere is that more apparent than in the disgrace inflicted upon them

by their evil label. Ever since CBS/Epic repackaged the singular 1977 debut into an admittedly still amazing hodgepodge two years later, the Clash oeuvre has been one of the most notorious casualties of corporate brainlessness. This live album is more of the same.

It sounds perfectly fine, really — much better than other post-mortem

missteps, like the hideously sequenced The Story of the Clash Vol. 1

(Vol. 1? — oh, that's a laugh) and the typically bloated Clash on

Broadway box. None of these renditions overwhelm the razzle dazzle

of the studio versions. But "Complete Control" always sounds great. The

way Joe Strummer's snarl tries hard to keep pace with his anger in "What's

My Name" is particularly compelling. And it's foolish nostalgia to blame

the relatively lifeless "Career Opportunities" (RealAudio

excerpt) on the fact that it was recorded in 1982, during the

twilight of the band's career. There are tuckered-out live tapes from the

'70s out there, and, besides, "London Calling" (RealAudio

excerpt) and "Should I Stay or Should I Go" rock out plenty from

1982.

But because, after 20 years, there's still no coherent collection of the

great early singles and B-sides, Live From Here to Eternity is

unsurprisingly inessential, especially without the visuals. Apparently,

Joe Strummer was a live performer of frightening intensity who materialized

the explosions and contradictions of the Clash's music onstage with his

body theatrics. I wasn't there; you probably weren't either. So let's

leave this serviceable memento for those who were. I'll just stick to the

studio albums that have been inspiring some frighteningly intense body

theatrics in my living room for years.