V/A - Burning London: A Tribute to the Clash
Epic Records

I wish the Clash were dead.

Yes, you read me right. I wish one of my favorite bands of all time had died in, oh, I don't know, a bus accident or a plane crash or something while on tour.
How can I say such venomous words about one of my favorite bands? Simple: I have listened to the new Clash tribute released on Epic Records, Burning London, and I hope that the members of the Clash never have that opportunity.
When I first heard about the CD, I shuddered at the thought of hearing bands like 311 and Third Eye Blind massacre the timeless songs of the Clash. But it was with an open mind that I popped Burning London into my CD player this week.
I needed to do some reading for a class, so I figured I'd pop on this CD while I read, so that I could get a feel for it. Boy, was that a BAD idea! Usually, music *helps* me concentrate on whatever task I am doing. Not this time, oh no. As soon as Gwen Stefani belted out the opening lines to No Doubt's cover of "Hateful," I knew that this CD would be practically unlistenable. I went back to the radio and sat through the entire Burning London disc at a later time.
In addition to No Doubt's awful cover of "Hateful," the Urge turn in a metallic-tinged ska version of "This is Radio Clash" that doesn't work at all, with the vocalist sounding less like Joe Strummer with every word he sings.
Ice Cube, one of the few artists on the Burning London disc whom the Clash may have left a discernible message with, turns in an ill-conceived "cover" of "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" Cube basically rips off the guitar line and creates a rap song out of it. If it appeared anywhere else, I'm sure I'd dig it, but on a supposed Clash tribute album, it falls flat.
Interestingly, the world's premier Clash cover band -- Rancid -- sounds less like the Clash and more like a generic punk band on their cover of "Cheat". Maybe they realized how obvious their appearance on this album would be and went out and did something decidedly un-Clash-like for the cover. Who knows?
The album plods along with Third Eye Blind turning in a not-as-bad-as-it-sounds cover of "Train in Vain" with a little dub beat or something going on in the background. Up next are the Indigo Girls. Along with Ice Cube's rap version of "Should I Stay...", their cover of "Clampdown" is probably one of the most out-of-place songs on the album.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones turn in a pretty energetic and faithful cover of "Rudie Can't Fail," making one of the best songs on the disc. Following that is 311's forgettable (but not as bad as I wish it was) cover of "White Man in Hammersmith Palais." The Afghan Whigs follow with their version of "Lost in the Supermarket," which is probably the best song on the album. Eschewing their usual white-boy gospel stylings, the Whigs take the basic drum beat from "Train in Vain" and overlay it with their version of "Supermarket." The Clash were an experimental band and delved in many styles, and I think they'd be proud of what Greg Dulli & Co. have done to their song.
Unfortunately, the momentum gained by this song is quickly lost with the rapid-fire succession of Cracker's honky-tonk cover of "White Riot", Silverchair's metal cover of "London's Burning" and Moby's "Straight to Hell."
Burning London appears to be little more than an attempt by record company execs to get today's "hot" bands to cover one of yesterday's best bands (coincidentally on Epic) and move some of their back catalogue. The one completely good thing about this CD is that proceeds will be donated to a good cause (helping LA's homeless youth). However, that makes it worthwhile to spend $13 on the CD just to run it over so that the tunes cannot infect someone else's speakers.
Skip this tribute disc, and go straight to the source: pick up the Clash On Broadway boxed set and you won't be sorry.
...john heisel...

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