Tonight We're Going To Give It 35%

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Here's your question and answer of the week from the Punknews Formspring:

Q: The Clash or the Pistols?

A: Ah yes, THE timeless punk debate. Perhaps there is no other worthier debate in this existence (except maybe Clash v. Ramones or Misfits v. Black Flag). This one is a tough call.

These days, people love to show how punx they are by dismissing the Sex Pistols, but that is a shortsighted, foolish, and uninformed view. The fact is, The Sex Pistols were so incredible at the time that the entire Western World had not seen the likes of them before. The Stooges had long since been forgotten, The Ramones were regional NY (and probably not as shocking) and then comes along the Pistols. Remember, at the time Fleetwood Mac, Barry Manilow, The Eagles, and Captain and Tenielle were #1 on the chart singing calm music about nothing.

Then, all of a sudden, Johnny Rotten shows up singing about anarchy, abortions, drugs, and truly scaring society. Meanwhile, Steve Jones and Glen Matlock kick out some of the gnarliest, sharpest rifts ever written. A lot of people like to say "The Sex Pistols songs weren't that good." BULLSHIT. The Sex Pistols' tunes were AWESOME, hard, fast, energetic, snappy numbers that blow most of todays "org-core" and other wimpy genres hat are popular out of the water. (Some org-core is good, though).

Pretty much every punk band there is attacks the presidents or comments on politics. Why? THE PISTOLS. With the exception of maybe the Ramones, the Sex Pistols are the most influential punk band ever. Either through attraction or repulsion, Sex Pistols influenced The Clash, Joy Division, The Smiths, Crass, Henry Rollins, GWAR, Slayer, etc etc etc. By virtue of that, every single and that deals with politics or expresses a rejection of society in punknews, razorcake, max rnr- all of those bands can be traced back to the Sex Pistols.

Hell, the Sex Pistols were THE first punk band to attack a political leader directly. You can thank them for that.

To dismiss them just shows how many people in "punk" are scared to really admit where a good deal of their thought has come from. Also, John Lydon is hilarious and just bucks every expectation put before him. Now THAT's punk.

The Sex Pistols are sooooo good. They rule.
By contrast, the Clash weren't as shocking- though they were kind of shocking. Even the Clash were influenced by the Pistols. But, where the Sex Pistols exploded in one big bang, the Clash had longevity and experimentation.

Every single Clash album is way different then the one before it. Where many bands were trying to copy the first Clash album, The Clash had already moved onto the next thing. Reggae dubs? Check. Dance music? Check. Hip Hop? Check. Allen Ginsberg reading weird poetry? Check.

In the 80's when punk was developing a certain sound that tended to define the genre, that in doing so, showed that perhaps punk was not as radical as everyone thought, the Clash moved away from three chord smashers into something weirder, more experimental, and perhaps even more rewarding. Combat Rock is often cited as a pop album, but if you listen to "Red Angel Dragnet", "Atom Tan", and "Straight to Hell", you'll actually find it may be their most challenging release to date.

Plus, usually, the Clash were awesome live. Sometimes the Sex Pistols were great, sometimes not.

But man, when both of those bands were on, they were ON.

Example 1 Example 2

So, it's a tough call for sure, but I have to give it to the Clash by a hair, simply because they have a larger catalogue of fantastic music.

An even tougher question? The entirety of the Joe Strummer discography v. The entirety of the John Lydon discography.

-John G

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