Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros: Global a Go Go/ Streetcore (both Hellcat records)
Punks never die. After the movement dissolved – not too long after it kicked off – punks grabbed onto whatever was sizzling on the underground and took those sparks and made a roasting bonfire. Post-Clash Strummer took on some of the influences that were nurturing in the final days of the band: Latin rhythms, hip-hop and rockabilly and made some intriguing if largely unheard of records in the 1980s.
In 1999 he made a welcome comeback with The Mescaleros, with memorable appearances at festivals such as T in the Park and Move, and releasing Rock Art and the X-Ray Style that year and Global A Go-Go in 2001. Streetcore was released posthumously.
The magnus opus of the trio was Global A Go-Go from 2001 with, as the title would suggest, a worldwide overview. Notably, on Bhindi Bagee, Strummer meets a New Zealander on the high road of a London community, and is asked where he can get some mushy peas. A bemused Strummer replies “but we got balti, bhindi, strictly hindi, dall halal” and knocks off a long list of international dishes reflecting the diverse culinary tastes of today’s Britain.
Meanwhile, on the title track Strummer hails the universality of music: “Buddy Rich in Burundi/ Quadrophenia in Armenia/ Big Youth booming in Djkarta/ Nina Simone over Sierra Leone.”
Cool ‘N’ Out is a road trip across the States; Shaktar Donetsk reflects on eastern European migration to the west; and At The Border, Guy is a wonderful, seven-minute epic, that builds and builds with its reggae fusion. Apart from a rather pointless 18-minute Minstrel Boy that rounds off the album this is a magnificent effort from someone still sorely missed.
Streetcore saw Strummer go back to his rock and reggae roots. It’s a fine album which is remarkable given the album wasn’t completed before his untimely death. Most of the vocals are first takes and there are doubts over whether the cover of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, and Long Shadow – written for Johnny Cash – were meant to be included. Certainly the former doesn’t fit the album. Otherwise the quality is excellent and there appears to have been little need for wholesale pre-release changes. All In A Day and Arms Aloft are typical Strummer rabble-rousing efforts, Get Down Moses is Strummer using reggae magnificently and Burnin’ Streets is an effort worthy of any Clash album.
Both editions have extra tracks – just one in the case of Global a Go-Go (Bhindi Bagee live), but seven for Streetcore, all live takes of songs like the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop and Clash classics Armagideon Time and Junco Partner.
Hopefully, the first Mescaleros album and Strummer’s 80s efforts will be given the same remastering treatment soon, especially so for the older stuff which is now as rare as rocking horse manure.