Interview with FIDLAR’s Zac Carper

FIDLAR is Zac Carper, Max Kuehn, Elvis Kuehn, and Brandon Schwartzel

FIDLAR’s Zac Carper talks new music, the benefits of college radio, and getting recognition as more than just a “party punk” band

Los Angeles punk rock band FIDLAR is well known for their songs about beer, skateboarding, and drugs. Their live shows are loud and raucous affairs, a place for kids to work out their aggression and energy in the mosh pit (including the band’s famous “girls only” mosh pits). However, despite the hard-partying image they’ve cultivated (the meaning behind their name’s acronym, “Fuck It Dog, Life’s a Risk” is a skater’s version of Nike’s “Just Do It”), the members of FIDLAR are not the slackers many make them out to be. The band has released two records (2013’s FIDLAR and 2015’s Too) amidst years of constant touring, while their third record, Almost Free, is slated for release in early 2019. On top of all this, they’ve managed to keep the same original members, while facing personal issues such as drug addiction and death. The fun-loving, party band reputation may not be entirely undeserved, but their work ethic and dedication to sticking together is something that ought to be admired.

KCR’s Andrea Renney recently spoke with lead singer and guitarist Zac Carper in advance of their October 18th show at the North Park Observatory. The following interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

KCR: So you just finished the first leg of your fall tour at the end of September, over on the East Coast. Then you’re about to start the second leg on Thursday [October 18th] here in San Diego at the Observatory. How was the first leg of the tour, and how was the response to your new music?

Zac: It was super fun. We tour a lot, you know. We haven’t toured America in a long time. We were doing Europe for a little bit and I just forgot how fun it is to play in America, you know what I mean? Especially bigger cities like Chicago, New York, Philly. And the band that we took on tour was super fun, this band called NOBRO. They were awesome. And this band called Dilly Dally. So it was just a good time, good vibes, and everybody was getting along.

KCR: Awesome. Dilly Dally’s coming on the second leg too, right?

Z: Yeah.

KCR: And what was the other band that you mentioned?

Z: NOBRO. N-O-B-R-O.

KCR: Okay, cool. Are they gonna be on the second leg?

Z: No, they’re from Montreal. We were doing the East Coast, which is closer to them, so it would be easier for them. And then for the West Coast we’re taking this band called The Side Eyes.

KCR: Right.

Z: But NOBRO is this all female punk band from Montreal. They were hilarious, they were awesome.

KCR: Oh sick, that’s really cool. I’m actually from Canada myself, but I’m from Vancouver, so the other side.

Z: Ah, other side, other side.

KCR: Yeah, west side. So other than that, you’ve been releasing some new music throughout 2018. I know “Alcohol” came out earlier this year, followed by “Too Real”. Now “Can’t You See” just came out last week, and you’ve got your new album [Almost Free] coming out in January, is that correct? Next year?

Z: Yeah.

KCR: So, I mean, it’s been three years since Too came out. Has this album kind of been in the works for that entire time?

Z: Unfortunately, yeah (laughs). It just takes a long time now, man. You know, I always say the shitty part about DIY is you have to do it yourself.

KCR: Yeah, I feel it.

Z: And that’s kind of the reality of it. We’re not on a major label, we don’t have those kind of budgets to rent out fancy studios and go work. Like, for us to pay our rent and for us to sustain a living, we have to be on the road constantly, you know?

KCR: Definitely.

Z: And being on the road is kind of like a different shift of the brain. You have to focus on the road. Sometimes I’ll write on the road. Like that song “Alcohol”: it took a while to write that song. I think I wrote some of the vocal melodies and lyrics in Australia, so it’s kind of like piecing things together. It’s just a different way of doing things nowadays. And on top of that, when Too came out, the first year we toured we did something like 32 flights, and 12 of them were in Europe. In one year. You know, it’s just a lot. It’s a different thing. And this was before we were really doing things comfortably. We were still touring in vans every now and then and just going for it.  So we didn’t have the comfort of having a bus and being able to play guitar on it. We were just stuck in this van.

KCR: I get that. Coming off of tour and then going back to the studio and back and forth for years, I can imagine that it would be hard to sort of switch between those two ways of living. It makes sense that an album would take a bit longer when you’re having to go on tour all the time.

Z: Yeah. And we wanted to change it up, too, you know what I mean? I feel like sometimes time just makes you change things up, you know?

KCR: Oh, absolutely. Moving on, would you say the new album is going to be quite different, to the point where people are going to notice it?

Z: I think so. We’ve only had two records out, but those two records are pretty different from each other.

KCR: Yeah, I would agree.

Z: I mean, that’s kinda the whole point for us. We don’t wanna stick with one thing too much, you know?

KCR: No, definitely. I feel like that’s pretty common, not even related to music. Everyone changes, it’s a way of life. And kind of as an example, I know that you produced The Frights’ last two records. Those two records are very different. So there’s another band that’s very much reinventing themselves and always changing.

Z: Yeah. I think for fans of music, there’s two sides: where they don’t want the band to change, but then people also get mad when the band doesn’t change. Because then it’s just the same thing over and over again. And there’s no winning in that scenario. That’s something that I’ve had a conversation with Mikey [Carnevale] from The Frights about. Like, you can’t think about that shit because then you’re not writing music for you anymore, you know what I mean? You’re just trying to please an audience, and that just doesn’t last long.

KCR: Yeah, absolutely. Then the music probably isn’t gonna turn out that well and it’s really not genuine if you’re just trying to please people. You just can’t win. I’ve definitely felt that before with bands and I feel bad about it but, you know, sometimes you just form a bond with a record and then the next one’s different, and then you’re kinda sad. But you have to be happy for the band.

Z: I know (laughs). I’ve done that since I was a kid. I remember when Modest Mouse came out and I was like, “This is the best!” Then another record came out and I was just like, “I can’t do it anymore”, you know? But I still support them. You know what I do? I go back and listen to the record that changed my life. And that’s the thing that I present to people that call us out for changing. It’s like, what are you guys complaining about? Just go listen to the record you like!

KCR: Right? It’s still there!

Z: Yeah. It’s basically free on Spotify, go for it!

KCR: You don’t even have to pay for it, we’re not even getting money!

Z:  What else do you want from us, man? Like, what do you want… It’s just funny.

KCR: I agree. So I read that you worked with Ricky Reed to produce this new record, is that correct?

Z: Yeah.

KCR: Who, as far as I know, is known more for producing kind of pop-oriented stuff. How was that experience, and what do you think he brought to the table regarding the sound of your new record?

Z: It was extremely weird because when I met with Ricky, I didn’t know he wanted to do a FIDLAR record. I do some writing sessions on the side, so I thought that he wanted me to work on some pop stuff. I was like, “What am I doing here?” and he was like, “Oh, I wanna work on a FIDLAR record,” and I’m like “Why?” (laughs).

KCR: So he approached you?

Z: Yeah. And he’s just one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. The way he works is just so unique. The past year I’ve produced a couple bands, so I know how to record and I know how to do the production aspect, and he was willing to just use the demos that me and Elvis have been creating, and then build on top of that. So it was just a different way of working, a different style. He taught us that there are no rules in this thing, you know? Like, most of the stuff I wrote was on my laptop. I got into drum machines and stuff like that, and he was like, “Yeah, why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you try that stuff?” It doesn’t always have to be guitar and bass and drums and vocals. Let’s get weird, let’s try stuff. We even got into adding horns to songs.

I know people label him as a pop producer but I think he’s just one of the most brilliant producers in general. And he’s the most fuckin’ punk rock dude I know, man. He’s the most humble person ever. There are a lot of producers in LA, you know, and a lot of them are pretty sleazy and flashy. They all drive fancy cars and are just kinda weird. That motherfucker’s driving a fucking beat up Prius that he still has, lives in a super modest house, has an amazing family. The way that he does everything, I was like, I really respect this guy and I feel like we can get on a level, you know? And when we started hanging out, literally all we were doing was cracking each other up. And that was kinda the point. All the other people that I’ve worked with, everything was so serious. I’m like, I don’t think you guys are getting what FIDLAR is. FIDLAR has always had that humor to it, that we have to keep because I don’t wanna take this shit too seriously. We do take it seriously, but… I’m not fuckin’ Tom Yorke here, I’m not trying to fucking reinvent the fucking wheel, you know what I’m saying?

KCR: Yeah, you can take things seriously but also still have fun and not take yourself too seriously in the process. To me, that’s the perfect way to be.

Z: Yeah, so that’s why me and Ricky got along really well. Presenting him to the band, they were all like, “Ah, he’s a pop producer, how is this gonna work?” But then once they met him they were like, “Oh my god, this is awesome.” It was a cool thing, it was very unique.

KCR: It sounds like it ended up being a perfect match.

Z: Yeah. And even with our second record, the producer we used was a pop/country producer, so it’s kinda always been a weird FIDLAR fashion to be like, okay, maybe with the last couple producers, it made the most sense to use that guy. But then at the same time, we’re already a punk rock band, you know what I mean? What if we offset it with something different? And something cool would come out of that.

KCR: Exactly. And, again, you don’t want to just keep making the same stuff. You should be trying new things and seeing what comes with it – why not?

Z: Yeah. See, you get it (laughs).

KCR: Yeah, I think I get it. On the topic of FIDLAR always being kind of humorous, the song “Too Real” seems pretty serious to me, pretty political.

Z: Yeah, I know. People in interviews, they’ve been asking me questions about that song a lot. The thing about it is it’s not choosing one side or the other. It’s not talking shit on one side or the other, it’s literally just saying what I hear going on. All this input that’s been happening over the past couple years, whether it be politics or social media or the left and the right movement, I’m just kind of writing lyrics that point those things out. It’s not like I’m taking a side or anything. It’s just like “Yo, you guys, you all sound fucking ridiculous”. That’s what this is. And that’s me included, you know what I mean? We’re all fucked up.

KCR: No, absolutely. And I think that comes through pretty explicitly that this isn’t some right-side bashing song. It’s commentary on the state of the world.

Z: Exactly.

KCR: Was there a specific incident where you thought, “This is messed up, I need to write this song,” or was it more of a general response to the government and our society focused on things like social media and always being politically correct?

Z: You know what, I don’t really quite remember what it was. I do know that I made the music of it, like the beat and the track of it, after doing a session with these guys called GTA. They’re an EDM duo. And I was blown away by how they work, how they use their laptops. Their laptop is like their guitar, you know? I was like, I wanna learn how to do this stuff, so I went to my studio and just made this beat, and that’s what that whole track is basically. Then I think I just let it sit for a while and then I had to lay down lyrics for it, and… I think I was probably fighting with my girlfriend at the time or something (laughs).

KCR: It’s funny that it kind of stemmed from that EDM group, since you have that line in the song pretending that EDM never happened.

Z: I was talking to them about EDM, and they’re like a huge EDM band, you know? And they were saying musicians and bands don’t treat them like they’re musicians. I totally understood that, and I felt that when FIDLAR started. I felt like people weren’t treating us like musicians because we would just get drunk and play three chords and yell. So “let’s pretend that EDM didn’t happen at all” is not a bash on EDM, it’s like a bash on-

KCR: The people saying that EDM isn’t music?

Z: Yeah, exactly. It’s the old people, I call them “rockets”, as in they only like rock music or a certain thing. But that’s the whole point, like “let’s pretend that EDM didn’t happen at all” –  that song is basically an EDM track (laughs). I used the fucking kick sample, the drum pack – all the samples are from an EDM pack. So that was kinda the joke about it, but I don’t think people got it. I think they just think I’m talking shit on EDM.

KCR: Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Z: Yeah, yeah.

KCR: Well I’m glad I know that now. Anyways, let’s move onto some trivia. On the topic of a song like “Too Real”, where it’s a bit more serious, you’ve said yourself that other musicians wouldn’t really view you as musicians. You’re just getting drunk, a “party band.” But “Too Real” is a great example of a serious song, while even something like “Stupid Decisions” is pretty personal. Do you think that FIDLAR is misunderstood in their reputation as a party band, and is it something you’d like to change? Or are you kinda just okay with that?

Z: I mean…look. Half of it’s our fault, writing songs called “Cheap Beer” and “Wake Bake Skate” and “Cocaine”, you know what I mean? Like, okay, I get it, we get it. Half of it’s our fault. And maybe it’s the name of the band, or our whole image or whatever – the goofiness of it – and for us in the media we really try to go for this party punk band, slacker punks, burnouts, that whole thing, you know?

The reality is, we wouldn’t be where we are if we were slackers or burnouts. We work really hard at what we do. Elvis [Kuehn] and Max [Kuehn] have been playing music since they were so young. I believe Elvis is a once in a lifetime musician, you know. He’s one of those savant dudes. He plays piano, he plays every instrument so well. So I feel like we do get discredited a lot for being musicians. A lot of people have labeled us as this party punk band, but we work really fucking hard at what we do, and we’re constantly working.

KCR: That must be tough. Obviously the music’s gonna get whatever label it’s gonna get, but it’s still unfortunate that you then get that sort of reputation. Like, “Oh, they’re just slackers,” or whatever. But you’ve released two records, kind of on your own. Obviously you’re working hard – this stuff doesn’t just happen.

Z: Yeah. And all while dealing with life shit. That’s the other thing that people don’t realize: we’ve been a band for almost ten years now. And it’s been the same members, the exact same members the entire time.

KCR: Yeah, that’s rare. When does that happen?

Z: That’s fucking RARE, dude. When does that happen, exactly. And it’s like, we have to deal with life shit. I got hooked on heroin, Elvis is going through some shit, Brandon [Schwartzel] is going through some shit, Max goes through some shit. We have to deal with life shit and we’ve had to learn how to talk to each other, and how to settle our differences and build our bond stronger. It just doesn’t really fucking happen that much. Musicians like to blow things up, like “Fuck this, I’m outta here.” But nah, that’s the easy way.

KCR: Yeah. The fact that you didn’t even break up given a serious addiction, and that you’ve remained the same members – I don’t know, I think you should get some recognition for that.

Z: Yeah, it’s been a lot harder than people think it is. And I think the press and media and stuff like to label us as “These guys just like to smoke weed and go to the studio and make music.” And, like, yeah… but we do it smart.

KCR: Yeah, you’re like “We’re doing that, but look at what we’re producing.”

Z: Yeah. We’re doing that every day and working hard at it, that’s what we’re doing.

KCR: Exactly. Everyone does different things, but at least you’re working hard at it. So just last week, “Can’t You See” came out. Can you tell me what it’s about? I was kinda getting the vibe that it was about the superficial side of the world in general, but maybe more specifically Los Angeles these days, with the whole “gluten free” thing and “meditating” and “getting rich quick”.

Z: Yeah, totally. It’s totally about that. To me, that song is like that dude at the party that’s just coked out of his mind. Maybe he’s a musician, or maybe he “makes beats”. He’s a producer or something like that. He’s showing you his band through his iPhone speaker. Like, “Listen to this, isn’t this cool?” And you’re just like, “Fuck, I feel like I’m trapped in a cage right now.” That’s kinda what we were channeling with that song.

That song wouldn’t have happened without Ricky though. Elvis had that riff and he had the verse to it, and in FIDLAR fashion we would’ve made it super loud and grungy. But then Ricky was just like, “Let’s do a song that’s just mellow.” And we were like, “Whoa, we’ve never done that before.” So we tried and we just had so much fun doing it. And we learned something in that process, that it’s actually harder to play quieter. Because you have to lock into the groove more. It’s easy to just turn shit up and strum hard.

KCR: Yeah, absolutely. And if you’re quiet or slower, people might notice mistakes more, whereas when you’re just playing loud and fast, your attitudes shifts into “Whatever, just do it.”

Z: Exactly, exactly.

KCR: That’s awesome. So I have one final question, and it’s related to radio. FIDLAR was somewhat recently added to KROQ’s regular rotation, which is really cool. Congratulations.

Z: Thank you.

KCR: You’re welcome. With music streaming services being the primary method of music consumption these days, do you think that radio is still a really important service for reaching new fans and getting your music out there?

Z: Yeah, I do. I really do. Not everybody can look on YouTube, you know what I mean? I come from a place where the only radio station was college radio, and that was literally where I found all my music. On Sundays, on this radio station, these guys had this three hour block and they played everything from Wu-Tang to Beastie Boys, whatever. They just played whatever and that’s how I learned about music, to be honest. Not everybody has the internet. Most people do, and a lot of people have smartphones and things like that. But I just think there’s something to be said about curated music instead of just having a whole library of shit to get lost in, you know what I mean? Because then you’re just like, “What do I listen to?” Having a DJ or specific songs picked out, I think that’s such a unique perspective.

KCR: Absolutely. And I know you can get curated playlists, but it’s not really the same. You don’t get that personal touch, but you also don’t get the commentary on the songs. That’s why I like listening to radio, for the curated aspect of it.

Z: Yeah, and with radio you don’t get to know what the next song is. I think that’s the joy of the radio thing for me, you’re just like “Oh, what’s gonna be next?” you know? It’s not a fucking list.

FIDLAR’s third full-length record, Almost Free, drops on January 25th via Mom + Pop Music. Listen to their newest single, “Can’t You See”, here.

Written By: Andrea Renney

The Goldmine-In Utero by Nirvana

In high school, my history teacher told my class that history becomes classified as such when 20 years have elapsed from the time an event happened. In that case, Nirvana’s 1993 album In Utero has just crossed that threshold, and as this blog profiles older albums that people nowadays aren’t as familiar with as they should be, I say its fair game. Their final studio record, In Utero was much more hard edged than the band’s megahit predecessor Nevermind. Kurt Cobain deliberately tried to make In Utero less accessible in order to move away from the more pop elements that pervaded the Nevermind album.

The album begins with the crash and howl of Serve the Servants, the change in recording style and the shift to a rawer and more distorted sound is instantly recognizable. Still, this is the type of song that you could find on Nirvana’s earlier work but in different sonic packaging.

Dave Grohl’s drums kick off the next song, the raging Scentless Apprentice. A super heavy track, Kurt Cobain is in full unintelligible-lyrics-leading-to-animal-howling mode. If Serve the Servants did not convince listeners that this album was going to be a different beast than Nevermind this song sure did. It is the only song on the album that credits all three band members, the rest being all credited to Cobain.

The third track on the album is the lead single, Heart Shaped Box. The song retains the quiet/loud alternations that worked well for the Nevermind material. The song has a much smoother sound than the rest of the album, owing to the mixing alterations given by Scott Litt to augment producer Steve Albini’s first mix.

Following up Heart Shaped Box is the completely uncontroversial crowd pleaser of a song called Rape Me. The track was a double A-sided single with All Apologies after the Heart Shaped Box release. It was retitled ‘Waif Me’ on cds sold at Walmart and other department stores that refused to sell the album with the original title. The introductory riff shares a similar structure with Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The fifth song on the album is Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, the title was inspired by a biography of the actress. Dave Grohl is all over the drum kit, crashing down on the toms in the choruses and setting a super heavy beat.

Following up the heavy and distorted Frances Farmer is the lithe acoustic track Dumb. Kera Schaley provides backing cello as a counterpoint to Cobain’s strumming guitar. Dumb stands out among the other heavily electrified songs with its musical style but also with Cobain’s double tracked vocals.

Clocking in barely under two minutes is the steady rocking Very Ape. The song itself is a conventional rocker with a very danceable beat for Nirvana standards.

Following up the faster and consistent Very Ape is Milk It, which is a much heavier and more segmented piece. The song alternates between halts and rushing sound, with Cobain going from mumble to outright screaming just as fast. Krist Novoselic’s modulating bass is clearly recognizable in the haze of guitar distortion.

The second and final song on the album featuring an acoustic guitar, we make our way to Pennyroyal Tea. The acoustic section does not last long as the chorus begins with a rush of the full band’s fury. Cobain sings about his pains and ailments, on an album with lyrics frequently addressing illness, this is the most extreme. Pennyroyal tea itself is supposedly contains abortive chemicals, but Cobain famously mocked it and its users because he maintained that it didn’t work. It was supposed to be the third single for the album but was recalled after Cobain’s suicide.

In a great display of Cobain’s sense of humor, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter is anything but. One of the dirtiest tracks on the album, the song roars and hums with feedback of Cobain’s guitars, droning over the breakneck pace of Grohl and Novoselic’s backing rhythm.

The eleventh track, Tourette’s, is somewhat of an oddity. It is barely over a minute and a half long and consists mainly of indecipherable screaming backed by a traditional grunge track, if grunge can ever be called traditional.

We finally come to the end of the album with the brilliant All Apologies. Bassist Novoselic backs Cobain on electric guitar on this song, with Kera Schaley again contributing a fantastic turn on cello. The track balances fantastically the melodic and the distorted, with Cobain’s strange and poetic “All and all is all we are” refrain echoing from the speakers as the song fades away to conclude the album.

Nevermind and its collection of hit singles will forever be the album that defined Nirvana’s legacy in the popular culture. It was the album that popularized grunge and proved that alternative rock could be as successful, if not more successful, than conventional rock. However, In Utero may be the band’s best work. They had refined their sound, to an ironically unrefined state, and wrote complex and personally engaging songs. Although it was not intended to be their final studio output, In Utero is a perfect mesh of Nirvana’s raw and polished elements, and a worth cap on their career.

The Goldmine-London Calling by The Clash

It’s the end of the month and I’ve decided to do something special. It’ll be twice the fun as we look back at a double album! It’s London Calling, the third album by The Clash, the finest punk album ever recorded. Rolling Stone magazine listed it as the 8th greatest album of all time, so it may very well end up be the highest rated album that I’ll recap for this blog.

Written and recorded in 1979, The Clash worked with the harrowing backdrop of a city gripped by social tensions and drug violence. As advertised, The Clash play the role of the conscience of the underground movement; writing songs addressing drug use, political instability, nationalist terrorism, social alienation, and corporate greed. You know, all the good stuff. What puts this album far beyond any other record of the era is the varied array of music on display. The Clash were a punk band and with that title came the expectation of 3 minute songs with distorted guitar and angry screaming. Like every truly great band, The Clash went beyond this narrow role assigned to them and made a work of art drawing not only from punk rock, but reggae, ska, jazz, R&B, and old style rock and roll.

Side A

The album starts off with a bang, the title track gets things going with immediate, gripping riffs and lyrics. Joe Strummer’s vocal performance captures a London in crisis and a society on the brink of collapse. It’s a full band effort, Stummer and lead guitarist Mick Jones blast through the expectations of polite society. Topper Headon’s sharp drum beats drive the song with a funky pace unheard of in punk outside The Clash, and Paul Simonon’s bass pulses the song along. The song was the lead single for the album.

Following London Calling is a cover of Vince Taylor’s old school rocker Brand New Cadillac. A short two minutes of furious riffing, surf rock sounding guitars. Joe Strummer really belts it out on this number.

The third track on the album is Jimmy Jazz, one of The Clash’s signature punk-reggae infusions. The song features Mick Jones on acoustic guitar and a backing brass section that saunters along with Simonon’s rolling bass lines. The song, like many others The Clash would write, center around a fictitious punk icon on a quest to survive the decaying world around him.

Hateful is a fast paced and catchy tune about drugs and drug dealing. The song has more acoustic and electric guitar interplay from Strummer and Jones and has friend of the band Micky Gallagher on organ, a post he would serve on many songs on the album.

The last number on the first side of the album is the reggae track Rudie Can’t Fail. Like Jimmy Jazz, the song is an ode to a man, this time a Jamaican ‘Rude Boy,’ who does not fit in with society’s expectations of him. The song incorporates elements of soul music with its powerful soul section. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones sing in duet on this fun-loving and playful song.

Side B

The second side of the album starts off in similar fashion to the first, but instead of the distorted and harsh opening like London Calling, Spanish Bombs is a melodic and melancholy track. Another Strummer/Jones duet, the song focuses on the modern day Spanish experience. The nation had previously just came out of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco and was experiencing major social change. The song also features, a bit hilariously, The Clash singing a chorus in Spanish. This feat would be repeated in their later hit Should I Stay or Should I Go.

The Right Profile is a song about the late stage and screen actor Montgomery Clift. The Irish Horns on brass get a featuring treatment on this track, including a horn solo (very rare on a punk album to say the least). Joe Strummer belts out his tribute to the dead actor with fervor enough to lose himself for a moment in the song.

Lost in the Supermarket is one of the more underrated Clash songs in the band’s catalog. It was written by Joe Strummer but sung by Mick Jones, whose childhood the song is allegedly about. The record is a look at the alienation of adolescence, a depressed child looking for real and genuine affection in a world of impersonal slogans and uncaring people.

The fourth track on the B-side is Clampdown: a mid-tempo rocker decrying the evils of corporatism and capitalism in general. Another Strummer-Jones duet, Strummer’s socialist leanings are on full display as he encourages the youth of the world to rebel against the system that mistreats and uses them. Clampdown would be the second single released for the album.

The final track on the first album is Paul Simonon’s first authored Clash record, the heavily reggae-influenced The Guns of Brixton. The song is full of the paranoia and angst that pervaded the Brixton region of London where Simonon grew up. The track ended up being prophetic, as less than a year later riots broke out all over Brixton in response to police pressure in the neighborhood. Allegedly, when Simonon was recording vocals to the track, a CBS record executive stopped by to see the band’s progress on the album and Simonon directed his vocal performance at him to get the full vitriolic performance heard on the album.

Side C

The second disc starts out with another cover track: Wrong ‘Em Boyo (written by Clive Alphonso) is a funky dub track based on the old American tune Stagger Lee. So in actuality the song is a cover of a song derived from a traditional American song about a bet gone bad. The song is a very danceable number featuring a swinging horn section and organ. Paul Simonon’s bass line throbs in time with Headon’s lively and snapping drums.

Death or Glory is a song about the aging generation of rockers who glorified dying before they got old. A very catchy tune, it is one of the more accessible songs on the album. It is also the first song since Lost in the Supermarket with The Clash performing alone as a four piece band without any backing instruments.

The same is true for Koka Kola, a fast and short (less than 2 minutes) song about drugs and the advertising industry. Another supremely catchy tune that way under stays its welcome.

The final track on the third side is the sweeping epic The Card Cheat. Sung by Mick Jones, the song is one of the most powerful songs The Clash ever wrote. A tribute of sorts to the men of previous generations that lived and died in the heyday of the British Empire. Explorers, adventurers, scoundrels, and soldiers alike who fought the good fight for king and country.

Side D

The final side of the album starts with Lover’s Rock, an R&B influenced track that is a welcome respite from all of the tension on the rest of the album. Love songs were one thing that The Clash rarely wrote and it is a refreshing change of pace for an album.

Four Horsemen is a mid-tempo rock song that features melodic guitar and bass lines but as the song progresses becomes more distorted with effects pedals.

I’m Not Down starts right out from the end of Four Horsemen. Another catchy and melodic track featuring Mick Jones on vocals. The song alternates between Strummer and Jones’ driving guitar riffs and Topper Headon’s intricate and snapping drum patterns. It is an ode to the rock spirit of not accepting what has been presented to you.

Revolution Rock is another reggae influenced song derived from The Clash’s infatuation with Jamaican music. The longest song on the album, clocking in at 5:37 (which was long for many punk tastes). The song is a feel-good track about how music can change people’s attitudes and unify them behind a new vision. It is the third and last cover on the album, first recorded by Danny Ray and The Revolutionaries. The song features all the elements of London Calling: The Clash’s four piece playing tight and loud, a lively and raucous horn section, and jamming organ.

The last song on the album started as merely an afterthought, but it would turn out to be one of The Clash’s most enduring and popular songs. Train in Vain (Stand by Me) was written so close to the album being released that it didn’t appear on the track listing of the first pressings of the album. Sung by Mick Jones, it was the first single The Clash released to crack the top 30 of the US charts. Also very important to the song is Topper Headon’s danceable drum beat that reminded the band members of a train, giving the track its name. It is a sincere and catchy love song about the aftermath of a breakup, so simple in its message and structure, and unlike anything the band wrote before or after.

It is easy to say that London Calling is one of the best albums of all time. The record is a great fusion of ideas and themes held together by a unified sound and Joe Strummer’s lyrical vision. At different points, the work is a scathing and brutally honest criticism of the status quo, an epitaph to punk heroes real and fictitious, and a sincere look at people’s emotions as they cope with a changing world around them, wondering if everything is for the best. The album codified the feelings of a world in flux, and sought out to carry the torch for a better connected, free, and harmonious world. The Clash were called the conscience of the punk rock movement. When the people of the streets were mad enough to fight, The Clash told them why they felt it and why it was worth changing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQImy7_6o50