Global A Go Go
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Global A Go-Go, Joe Strummer's second album with the The Mescaleros following 1999's Rock Art and The X-Ray Style mines the same concerns that have always inspired his music. "Johnny Appleseed" and "Cool 'n' Out" centre on Joe's brash eruptive guitar but hark back to his pre-punk folk busking roots, with lyrics anchored by a strong sense of indignation and social commitment. Strummer may pride himself as an original punk warlord, but he realises punk can only thrive by rejoicing in Britain's ever-vibrant multicultural melting pot as he does on "Bhindi Bagee" and the Arabic inflected refugee requiem "Shaktar Donetsk". His longstanding fascination with dub reggae fuels "At the Border, Guy", while the Marconi saluting title track celebrates the power of radio to present new worlds and unite communities. On "Mondo Bongo" he dispenses with his trademark bark for a lovely ballad laced with pre-Clash accomplice Tymon Dogg's lonesome violin. This is real anger with a big warm heart; maturity suits Strummer just fine. --Gavin Martin
The Strummer crew's previous one, Rock Art & The X-Ray Style, was a motoring favourite and this one has been the non-stop soundtrack of summer 2001. I even went out and bought a six-pack more just to give to deserving pals. There's clearly some convergence going on here. Wiseheads of the Clash era always pointed to the affinity between the politics and DIY ethic of the punk scene and the folk movement. Strummer's music today is more relevant to these pages than ever: not only reflecting current English urban culture and global concerns, but evolving a band sound that has world-augmented its conventional rock instruments with fiddles, hammer dulcimer, accordeon, all sorts of percussion, horns and much more. In among them is our old friend Tymon Dogg, once having guested on a Clash album, now a full paid up Mescalero. It's a new English sound of the 21st century, and there are obvious parallels with the way that Billy Bragg's Blokes also use a swathe of "unconventional" instruments, whatever's right and available from the world's cultures to add interesting textures. Pointed songs in English that work in the new multicultural realities. Like their previous album, this one has a thick and imaginative construction (if Phil Spector had done studio training with the Mustaphas...) that still somehow manages to sound uncontrived, revealing constant new pleasures at each play. The words are devised in the same way: first impressions might indicate a good deal of stream-of-consciousness but (as with early electric Dylan) they're much cleverer than that. Just as a little burst of bikutsi-like guitar might suddenly catch your attention, so do smart little lyrical twists (like the Who reference to Armenia in the title track--it's only later in the small print that you notice Roger Daltrey has slipped in on backing vocals on that one). It's pretty much all extremely good--even a very long meandering instrumental "Minstrel Boy" has its jammed charm in a two-fingers-to-"Fisherman's Blues" way--but the one that probably sums it up is "Bhindi Bhagee". In it, our hero meets a visitor from abroad seeking the culinary delight of mushy peas. Not around here, he's told, but "We got balti, bhindi... dall, halal... rocksoul, okra, Bombay duck... shrimp, beansprout, bagels...avocado, akee, lassi, Somali waccy baccy... pastrami, salami, lasagne." Makes Robin Cook's menu choice sound positively restrictive. And then Strummer goes on to describe the global influences on the band's music in the same off-the-cuff, haphazard way, while all round the music rampages gloriously. As somebody else's song title said, this is the UK talking. Major milestone album: influence will be felt, mark my words. --Ian Anderson
© fRoots Magazine all rights reserved -- fRoots, October 2001