The sum of all parts does not always equal the whole, as one Clash-related supergroup that stirred up attention last year in the form of the generally well-received though personally disappointing The Good, The Bad, And the Queen has shown. Boasting bassist Paul Simonon, as well as members of the Verve and Fela Kuti, the album seemed more a product of songwriter Damon Albarn's independent vision than a the result of the collective creativity of its members.
In contrast, Carbon/Silicon's debut physical release pulls few punches when considering its makeup: Mick Jones and Tony James of legendary British punk bands the Clash and Generation X respectively, joined by Jones' prior bandmate in Big Audio Dynamite, Leo "Eezykill" Williams, and Reef's former drummer Dominic Greensmith. Each member and his role seems a direct reflection of the various idiosyncrasies organically embedded in The Last Post's sound. A slightly aged sense of idealism and reflection of punk come directly from the contributions of primary songwriters Jones and James, while Williams, formerly of reggae dub act Dreadzone, tosses in dashes of toasting and minimalist low-end above Greensmith's straight-ahead rock and roll rhythms.
While Carbon/Silicon has made a point of offering their material up for free to anyone with an internet connection for the past several years, The Last Post brings the group out from somewhere slightly below the radar to widespread mainstream distribution via Caroline. Not only the physical format being available for the first time, but also the addition of Williams and Greensmith to the act that had been operating as a duo in all their prior 2006/2007 releases contributes to a growing sense that Carbon/Silicon is leaving the grounds of novelty side projects and taking on a likeness of their own. Throughout its 12 tracks spread over an hour, the sound is consistent without being homogenous. Still not afraid to take creative gambles that might not result in an entirely suitable outcome like the digitized, discotheque-ready "Really the Blues," Carbon/Silicon's experimentation rarely falls flat. Marching in 4/4 time, the atmospheric, mono-tonal, almost prodding guitar of "Tell It Like It Is" cuts out a little more than halfway through the song, giving way to a pedantic two-note alternation and stomp & clap rhythm. As the music slowly builds and instrumentation is reintroduced to the composition, Williams' vaguely rasta-styled vocals engender an uplifting, wholly positive aura that resonates through the end of the song.
While the Jones/James combination doesn't always churn out an identifiably punk sound, the chunky, start and stop chord progression and steady rhythm of "What the Fuck!" sounds a lot like "Clash City Rockers" aged 30 years or so. And even when the music isn't ostensibly punk, the lyrics are often pointed and unabashed, like something you could read in the liner notes to Combat Rock. On the sauntering, folksy "Oilwell," Jones suggests, "Let's take all the money and all of the waste / And shoot the whole lot into outer space / And try to make a humanitarian case / For dropping some love on the human race." Carbon/Silicon goes out with a bang on the album closer "Why Do Men Fight?", which features exchanging vocals between Williams' optimistic, inquisitive inflection and Jones' comforting reassurance that "Religion, race, colour, creed, whatever... / I can hear what they say, that there must be a better way."
Carbon/Silicon is probably not how any of its members will be remembered in 50 years. The Clash and Generation X already have their places in the history books, and Carbon/Silicon will probably be a footnote at best. But what's important is that Jones, James, and company are still pushing positive, progressive issues, making their music free, and still genuinely believe that music hasn't lost its meaning, and a song can still make a difference. And with that goal in mind, Carbon/Silicon have done exactly for what they set out in The Last Post.