The Clash Hits Back is a 2 CD (or 3 LP) compilation released today simultaneously with the Sound System collection but with far less of a fanfare.
Hits Back consists of 24 studio tracks that follow the setlist of a show the band performed at the Brixton Fair Deal (now the Academy) on the 10th of July 1982 – or at least the proposed setlist that Joe Strummer taped to the back of his Telecaster before the gig – along with eight additional tracks thrown in including Complete Control and Hitsville UK. There’s no major tracklisting surprises here bar the exclusion of London’s Burning.
‘Joe would spend a lot of time composing the running order, considering dynamics, emotional impact and the key the songs were in,’ the three best known surviving members explain in the liner notes.
Hits Back will cost you around a tenner which itself sounds like a fair enough deal for 32 remastered tracks but as I already own three Clash comps: Super Black Market Clash, The Story of the Clash and The Essential Clash, I’m struggling to get too excited about this one.
Yeah, it can be fascinating to hear music in a new and well selected sequence but as I already own all the tracks I can make my own Hits Back on my media player of choice if I have the time and inclination. Or, I assume, hear it on Spotify at some point soon. I’d have preferred the Brixton show live myself or any other live Clash gig for that matter.
With a very attractive array of extras that includes the first ever recordings of the band (at Beaconsfield Film School in 1976) and the Guy Stevens produced demos for Polydor, Sound System looks a much more intriguing release although it is also around ten times the price of Hits Back.
The first five Clash albums are also available from today as a 5 Album Studio Box Set and are all also included in Sound System – any trace of Cut the Crap though in case you’re wondering has been unceremoniously excluded from all these new re-releases.
Mick Jones has compared Sound System to buying a DVD box set like Kojak or Breaking Bad but if I’m gonna buy a complete box set of a favourite TV show I want to see each and every episode of that show even the ones from the sixth and final series that was accused of jumping the shark.
Was Cut the Crap really so utterly dreadful that it needs to be excised from the history of The Clash? Admittedly, it’s their weakest effort and generally ill conceived but I’d take North and South over a swathe of the tracks from Sandinista and if I had to choose a favourite between This is England and the band’s highest charting single worldwide, Rock the Casbah, it would have to be the former – perversely I’m tempted to seek out my cassette copy of Cut the Crap tonight and give it another listen. On my old beatbox of course.
Gripe over, if I had a spare hundred pounds then I’d likely have already have ordered a copy of Sound System, sadly though I don’t albeit I would like to hear it at some time in that unwritten future of mine.