Track This: The Clash's "Something About England"
Unlike other British punk bands, such as The Sex Pistols, the band lasted long enough to pass the point of definitive album band. The Pistols had their one righteous record, Never Mind The Bollocks, that maintained the seething punk ferocity of the early scene and provided numerous anthems, which relied more on the Chuck Berry song format than genre experimentation. Other bands like The Damned never achieved mainstream success outside of the UK, and their music stayed more ferocious than the Clash and stayed truer to the original punk template, except for a primary flirtation with goth. Their first album, 1977's Damned, Damned, Damned and their third, 1979's Machine Gun Etiquette, are considered classics, while the public commonly dismisses their second, 1977's Music For Pleasure.
"Something About England" is one of my favorite tracks on the record, and I nominate it as one of the overlooked gems in the Clash's catalog. It is not representative of the band's punk rock tracks, but its captivating, folky undertones and piano glissandos recall the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies. Lyrically, the track could be a lost, somber cousin to Cut The Crap's "This is England." Mick Jones and Joe Strummer alternate vocals as they tell an alternate history of England that riffs on the right wing belief that "England will be for Englishmen again" to the dissonant sounds of sirens and other instrumentation. Just listen to that transformed siren after Jones sings over tickling piano keys and the weird, near indistinguishable gang vocals that pop up after Strummer takes his turn. Mick Jones' vocals are his best since "Lost in the Supermarket," plaintive and yearning, as he introduces and closes the song. Underneath the poppy structure of the song's melody bubbles, Strummer's gruffer pipes answer in conversation like Tom Wait's higher-pitched cousin, rapping lyrics on the far side of an alternate reality's Bone Machine. The song critiques the warring ways of England and the never-changing class structure. It seems to offer the sage advice that nothing much has changed because England remains alone.