The Clash

The Singles (Sony)

Mike D. zealously testifies to studying the sleeves of every Clash single as a 'tween, unlocking truths about punk's sartorial coding and the nature of reggae, the music instigating in the young Beastie Boy the dream of being in a band. Shane McGowan could hear in the group's first single, "White Riot," the message of "how pathetic white people are at standing up for their rights and having fun, whereas black people know how to do both." Such epiphanies are noted in the latest repackaging of the Clash catalog, a 19-CD box set with faithful color-sleeve replicas of its collected output of 45s and 12s. The Clash was tangentially a U.K. punk band "saving rock 'n' roll," and The Singles' fun comes from seeing how the group got down on its B-sides. Foremost is the Clash's love of reggae: "London Calling"'s flipside is a take on rasta anthem "Armagideon Time"; "Complete Control" boosts a sound-system speaker for cover art; the band dubs and stretches "Radio One" and "Rockers Galore" with producer Mikey Dread at the controls. But that's not all, as the Clash also deftly apes Motown on "Hitsville U.K." Embracing the disco 12-inch for "The Magnificent Seven," the Chic bassline deploys sparkles and tingles as it spreads (and dig Joe Strummer's proto-rap). The epochal dance-punk of "This Is Radio Clash" becomes ever more delirious and distended with each new version, proving McGowan's assertion of how the Clash bolstered both political thought and ass-moving low end. —- Andy Beta

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