If you’re a band at the epoch of success how do you follow up what is often considered one of the best rock albums ever made? For The Clash, whose epic 1979 double LP, London Calling, is to this day one of the best selling and most renowned albums to ever spin the answer was simple. Go beyond grandiose.
Sandinista! is the kind of album that only a band as audacious, experimental and politically cognizant as The Clash could record. Originally released as a triple LP containing 36 radically different tracks that flirt with the sounds of straight punk, Jamaican “dub” reggae rock, classical chamber ballads and catchy pop, Sandinista! is proof that The Clash could still electrify listeners and move away from simply being classified as merely a punk band.
While there were only three singles off the band’s fourth album–the early white boy rap track, “The Magnificent Seven,” the bubble gum pop cut, “Hitsville UK” and the military charged “The Call Up”–Sandinista! is more than just a crowded collection of scathing political rock songs.
Highlights such as the anti-globalization plea, “Charlie Don’t Surf,” the haunting classical guitar piece, “Rebel Waltz,” the straight punk anthem, “Police On My Back,” the Calypso Castro revolution pop, “Washington Bullets,” or the extremely bizarre but catchy violin wail, “Lose This Skin” are evidence that The Clash was eager to tackle as many sounds and visions as they could, while also giving fans more than enough to chew on.
According to the band’s guitarist/lead singer, Joe Strummer, the album was the spawn of a diligent three-week recording session during which the band simply could not stop writing songs. A musical feat of this magnitude could come out as overly ambitious and cluttered, but Sandinista! manages to stay refreshing and keeps the listener curious after every ride. While some argue that the album could have been cut down, I cannot think of a better way to explore this monumental band in the pinnacle of their short-lived career than by taking on the Sandinista!