Published Oct 09, 2018Spurred on by the discovery of a treasure trove of unreleased material from the late Joe Strummer's personal archive, this box set is a revelatory overview of one of rock's most gifted singers and songwriters. As a presence, Strummer drew from the seedier aspects of rockabilly, somehow capturing both its menacing and congenial aspects while exhibiting a rare kind of musicality all his own. It's why, upon seeing him perform with his band, the 101ers, a nascent version of the Clash knew they had to poach him.
What fans get here reflects Strummer's power and it's more than a greatest hits package. Yes, there are readily available album cuts from Strummer's work outside of the Clash, but there are also many rarities from soundtracks and side projects, plus completely unheard pieces that form a compelling puzzle of his creative impulses.
It's primarily chronological and, where possible, includes demos, like "Letsagetabitarockin'," which reveal a pretty self-assured artist. Strummer was seemingly quick to conjure a cool idea and see it through all the way.
He was also super keyed into infectious hooks and melodies. Once they enter your head, "Love Kills," "Trash City" and "Johnny Appleseed" will never leave you. At the same time, you can also occasionally hear how much Strummer needed Mick Jones. His mate in the Clash had a true gift for arrangements and dynamics, which made their band's version of pop songs so fascinatingly off-kilter. Without Jones, Strummer will often home in on a sick groove and not leave it alone. So sparks fly on "U.S. North," a previously unreleased, post-Clash, 1986 Strummer/Jones collab, included here.
That song is on a disc full of wondrous stuff that Strummer had carefully catalogued and stored on his property when he died young in December 2002. The stories of just how fastidiously Strummer kept and often hid songs on multi-track tape are fascinating and the best read in the liner notes — his estate suggests there are 20,000 items in his archive. Joe Strummer 001 is bursting with endearing, heartbreakingly excellent stories and songs about and by a guy with an endless passion to create and affect change. Here's hoping this series continues. (Ignition)