working for the clampdown

The clash, the dawn of neoliberalism and the political promise of punk

Edited by Colin Coulter

Manchester University Press

Ah the clash, Colin asks us to revisit the band while reading this book. Listen as if it was the first time as their lyrics are investigated. I took this as a welcome challenge. As with any academic piece of work items are dissected for meaning where perhaps there was none.

Events can have larger consequence and while it is a fact that the clash’s last record coincided with the rise of neoliberalism is it not a stretch to say they are related?

Coulter dissects the bands lyrics and with my fresh eyes reviewing them I agree with all he says. This band were and still are vital. 

Jason Toynbee believes the clash were not just “musicians but cultural workers employed in a cultural industry”. He also recognised that in the clash’s short career they demonstrated the power of music to move and shake the world. The clash arose in a time of strife in the world. A time pre thatcher and Reagan and populism. Toes were being dipped into the “free market” and reduction of state support. Everything about the clash was political, whether they appreciated it or not. 

Caroline Coon explains the feminism of the band but unlike others tries not to exaggerate the era. 

Ruth Adams and Kieran cashew explain how the band played “a key role in breaking down boundaries” and how they mixed reggae into their sound. Cashell speaks of the fashion statements the band made. Again given extra importance after 4 decades. 

Pete Dale dissects the chord structures in the first album but thankfully also talks the influence of Keith Levene and wonders what sort of band they would have become had Levene pursues his involvements (he co-wrote ‘What’s My name‘ on the first lp).

An interesting collection of stories and takes on a band that many say are the only band that mattered. For me and so many others they are the band that kickstarted so much


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