Old punk, new ideas

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After a slew of sound tracks and two solo CDs, former Clash front man, Joe Strummer, with his new band, The Mescaleros, has apparently reconnected with his muse and broadened his vision, quickly following up last year’s Rock Art and the X-Ray Style with Global a Go-Go. Propelled by numerous well-reviewed performances, the latest release by Strummer and friends is a smart, collaborative packaging of innovative, driven sounds that sometimes echo where the Clash’s Sandinista and Combat Rock left off (or came from) while exploring progressions of “new” international musical boundaries.

From the get-go, Strummer’s new CD exhibits a sense that, with his new mates, he has found the right mesh of musical thinkers to help him synchronize and update his ambitions as a postmodern street-beat-folk-punk singer-songwriter. Where Rock Art contained evidence that Strummer was onto something in trying to forge “old” sounds with “new” sounds, Global delivers the goods. Songs on Global have a multi-instrumental structure, using an array of guitar styles and percussion, keyboards, flute, sax and sound productions, as well as the violin of Clash collaborator Tymon Dogg.

What makes Global work is the matching of the different musical textured approaches with the impassioned and improvisational vocal deliverance by Strummer and the witty, sometimes sociopolitically angled (a la Allen Ginsberg) methodology of his lyrics. As a singer-songwriter, Strummer’s strength is his ability to play on and off the beat of the music, relying on the performance of the tune to get the (sometimes ambiguous) message or story across. Like some of the small gems on the last two “official” Clash releases, songs such as “Gamma Ray” and “Shaktar Donestsk” have a particular slow, dark and catchy appeal. It combines well with the more reggae-world-rocking sounds of tunes such as “Cool ’n’ Out,” “Bhindi Bhagee,” “At the Border, Guy” and “Global A Go-Go.” While the folkier side of Global may have Clash fans relishing for the “Death or Glory” days, Joe “Minstrel Boy” Strummer may just have found his guns again.

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