In “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” with impending doom, Keira Knightly’s character grabs several records before fleeing her home with the hopes of listening to them one last time. The Essentials is an ongoing series about the ten, in no particular order, albums I would grab in such a similar situation.
The first night I heard “Streetcore” from Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros is one of my favorite nights. I was crawling through a festival way out west. No, wait, that wasn’t it. It was college. I was with some of my most favorite people. We were drinking mainly whiskey. We had just poorly sung along with Reel Big Fish’s cover of “Take On Me,” a rendition that set the neighborhood dogs into a barking frenzy. Falsetto is hard. It was time to let the night wind down and give the dogs a break. We traded the wacky ska antics of the RBF and put on the calming mellow sounds of Joe Strummer and Mecaleros. The warm night, the chilled whiskey, the good friends, and awesome tunes can always make for a wonderful night.
Joe Strummer has often been thought of as a punk rock godfather, or as some merchandising would call him, punk rock warlord. So while his work with the Mescaleros strays from the aggressive three chord sound often affiliated with punk, I still see it as some of his most punk-rock work. More in the idea of what it means to be punk way and less in the this is what punk sounds like way.
Ever since “London Calling,” Joe and The Clash have explored various types of music. Sometimes it was successful, sometimes it was not, and sometimes it was “Combat Rock.” But Joe was never shy about just making any kind of music and doing it because it was music he wanted to hear. Before I get the wrath of historians, yes The Clash were somewhat a fabricated band who made punk music in an attempt to cash in. While they may have started that way, they ventured out and made music they wanted, now with the punk guise of fuck it we’ll do what we want. It’s an interesting aspect that I don’t want to delve into more here.
So it’s no surprise Joe’s later work would be a variety of styles and sound. “Streetcore” opens with the mildly punk influenced “Coma Girl,” then goes into a twangy, bluesy, mellow funk tune “Get Down Moses,” before hitting with a folky country “Long Shadow.” None of which sounds out of place, which seems like a preposterous thing to say. It’s very possible that this was the album that made me more open to music. Maybe not so much the album itself, but that it hit that point in my life where I could stop being such a prick. Where I can go yeah I love punk and ska, but there’s so much more out here that also sounds awesome. A very important album in my growth as a person and as an appreciator of art.
More than anything, this album just makes me happy. I don’t know if it’s the upbeat sound of it, or the memories associated with it, or if just somewhere in my soul there’s always rock and roll. But it doesn’t matter. When they all combine it creates something awesome and powerful that can change my whole world. They’re like the Planeteers creating Captain Planet.
I can’t help but to imagine I’m in the situation where a comet is hurling towards the planet, and certain doom is on the horizon, and all I do is pour myself a glass of whiskey, put this record on, and watch the sky fall. It’s a beautiful sadness that leaves me oddly happy and at peace.