Written by GE 138.
I swore up and down I wasn't going to get wrapped up in the hype surrounding this seminal release. I avoided it like the plague, and yet it still infected me, got under my skin, and then sucked me in. The more I saw of it, the more I wanted it, I obsessed on it, so I reluctantly plunked down my money as a pre-order and waited expectantly by the door on the day it was released, waiting for it to be delivered into my grubby little hands. I was like a kid on Christmas Day when the UPS guy finally brought it to me, and I grabbed the nearest sharp object I could find and ripped into it, freeing it of it's packaging. First off, it's heavy as fuck. Second, it looks like a fucking boom box!! hahahaha Kudos to whoever designed this thing - it really looks great. I cracked it open and threw it's entire contents out on the floor, looking it all over like some long lost pirates treasure of Clash paraphernalia. I turned off my phone. I locked my door. I popped the first CD into the player. It sounded amazing. I grabbed a copy of the reprint of the Armagideon Times fanzine to thumb through while I listened. It looked just like I remembered it. I chubbed up a little bit, beyond elated. This was going to take a while to digest. Thankfully I had nothing but time to do so.
The box set has 11 CD's - the first 8 are the remastered albums The Clash, Give 'Em Enough Rope, London Calling, Sandinista!, and Combat Rock, no Cut The Crap, of course, and the 1st 2 CD's of the trio of Extras stuff just seemed like a rehashing of the Singles box set released a while ago. But it's on the second disc of that Extras stuff that some truly long awaited music finally rears it's ugly head on an officially released Clash product. 5 songs from the original mix of Combat Rock, a mix done by Mick Jones himself for a double album that was supposed to be called Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg, finally see the light of day and man, do they sound fantastic. 3 of the songs, Midnight To Stevens, The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too, and Kill Time (listed here as Idle In Kangaroo Court for some reason) have never been released before, and the versions of Ghetto Defendant and Sean Flynn are from that unreleased album and are not the standard Combat Rock versions. Theses songs have long been available on various bootlegs, but on here, given the remix / remaster treatment, well, that just makes me salivate at the prospect that the unreleased version of that album has been given a proper mix for a possible release later on somewhere down the road. You ever hear Rankin' Roger from The English Beat singing lead vocals on Rock The Casbah? Hopefully someday officially you will. :-) The third disc of the Extras stuff contains never before released songs from the first ever Clash recording sessions, done by Julien Temple in 1976, and the Polydor demos, produced by Guy Stevens, which are the second ever Clash recording sessions, done in 1977, and they are worth their weight in gold. Like everything else, they've long been available on various bootlegs, but to finally have them on here is a godsend. They sound fucking incredible. The musical portion of the box set ends with 6 godhead songs from the professionally recorded Clash concert at the Lyceum on Dec. 28th, 1979, 4 of which have never been released before - Jail Guitar Doors, City Of The Dead, Stay Free and Cheapskates. Fucking life affirming proof of the Viciousness and Fury of The Only Band That Matters and again, I can only hope that the entire concert has been remixed / remastered for a future release. The last disc on here is a DVD full of never before seen or officially released treasures, stuff like a 7 minute video compilation of sorts from the Julien Temple archives, stuff that includes them hanging out in the studio, performing live, etc. It's a fascinating watch and well put together. There's also the legendary Tony Parsons interview, in which they performed 3 songs live - 1977, White Riot, and London's Burning, in between an interesting drunken chat around the pool table. The Intensity and Passion on display during the bands live performance has got to be seen to be believed. Then there's a heavily edited B & W live performance from Sussex University, recorded in 1977, that features some heavy sulphate powdered versions of some classic Clash songs. Topper looks funny with his super bleached blonde hair... heh heh The live Don Letts stuff is also never before seen, and while visually captivating, I still would of rather of heard the actual audio tracks that went to the songs being shown played, and not see them synched up to the album tracks. The rest of the DVD is filled up with the Clash On Broadway material and all the Promo videos. Whatever.
And then there's the icing on the cake - the swag!! Oh man, the swag is glorious! I'm a sucker for it all! Badges, stickers, dog tags, reprints of both of the original Armagideon Times, found in copies of London Calling and Sandinista!, plus a brand spanking new one that was put together just for this box set by Paul himself, featuring contributions and recollections from Kosmo Vinyl, Pennie Smith, the Baker, and Johnny Greene. The Sound System box set also comes with a giant cigarette, which is used to house a pristine print of a picture Joe Strummer took of Paul Simonon kicking some boom boxes, a picture that was used for the cover of the recently released The Clash Hits Back compilation, which I reviewed here. My favorite piece of swag though, is the small handbook with the exorbitant cover with the words 'The Future Is Unwritten' on it, and when you open the book up, every page in the book is blank. Brilliant. Yeah, I know that this is the continued flogging of a dead horse, and yeah, it's a bit pricey, and I know it's totally marketed towards the completist, rabid Clash fan such as yours truly, but gawd dammit, it's worth every single penny I spent on it, and I hate to sound like some corporate shrill drinking the Kool-Aid here, but seriously, I can't recommend this enough. The remix / remaster job is fantastic, and the unreleased stuff is phenomenal. Throw in some shiny little baubles and stickers and more swag, and it all makes me a very happy camper. Essential, Crucial stuff here. Acquire at any costs and by any means necessary. The Clash Sound System box set. A perfect summation of all things Clash. I love it. <3
Available from the corporate whores who slave for Sony Music Entertainment, and you can click here to buy it from them. Click here to buy the box set for much cheaper from Amazon.com.