Three long years after the Clash's last appearance, an album that could be perceived as a worst case scenario Clash album was released. It pretty much is a worst case scenario, anyone who's taken any interest in the group would have realised that Mick Jones' song writing and Topper Headon's drumming made everything possible, sure Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon had tastes and ideas as diverse, but with 'Cut the Crap' as evidence they couldn't put them into practice.
First, the worst things. It's one of the most horribly produced albums I've ever heard. The tuneless guitars squeak and squeal, the slap funk bass seems to be from totally different take. The drums are awful, utilising a cheap drum machine in the nastiest sense. The Clash's forays into to dance were always fun because of the Topper's soulful funky drumming. Drum machines just don't sit right, especially ones that are programmed to be as moronic as these - even Carter USM applied them better. Joe, as ever sings it and tells it well, but the backing vocals/chants drown him out, add to that some terrible keyboards which are lame when compared to 'Overpowered By Funk' from 'Combat Rock'. But what's worst of all is that this is the Clash. On Cut the Crap they seem to set out that they can't do punk ('Dirty Punk', 'Life is Wild'), rock ('Cool under Heat', 'Fingerpoppin''), or experiment ('Dictator', 'Play to Win'). It's sad when the 'same band' gave us so many memorable songs across so many genres.
Second, the better moments. 'This is England' may be a second rate 'Straight to Hell', but its a gutsy, messy song that hits the mark, mainly down to its stripped production and a great Strummer lyric. 'We Are The Clash' has moments of greatness, a guitar part that sounds straight from off of 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' (until the hideous solo appears) and a ramshackle rock 'n' roll confidence to it. 'Are You Red..Y' isn't all bad, its totally over-cooked, but enjoyable. 'Three Card Trick' is the furthest the album goes from punk, and is a sort of mangled 'Rock the Casbah'. Its bouncy and funky, and the shame is that of all the songs it is the one I think could have been a classic had the original line recorded it, or at least Topper on drums.
Overall many of these songs have potential (maybe there are some demos out there for someone to dig up) but it is a poor second-rate album from a poor second-rate Clash. I love the Clash and its sad to see it end like this, but thankfully Joe redeemed himself with the Mescaleros, and Mick has given us some great stuff (admittedly not all of it) with Big Audio Dynamite. Big Audio Dynamite's second album 'No.10 Upping Street' makes for a better Clash swansong to try. Joe writes half of it co-produces it with Mick, while dated, its certainly competent, for starters.