The Clash - Sandinista! (Cover Artwork)

The Clash

Sandinista! (1980)


The Clash are one of those classic bands; you bring up The Clash in a group of people, there is going to be at least one person in that group who is at the very least aware of the band, if not a full fledged fan. The Clash are enjoyed in a generational way, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters can all be fans on some level. Credited as one of the innovators of the punk rock movement of the 70’s, despite covering many different genres within their diverse catalogue of records. The Clash are more accessible than The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, but still hold true to the leather jacket wearing punk rock image that people still love today in 2016. Calling this legendary group influential is accurate, but doesn’t quite seem to do them justice; you can still hear aspects of The Clash sound in many contemporary rock and punk rock bands and time the radio happens to be playing. Unfortunately with the passing of Joe Strummer in 2002, The Clash will remain a band that can only be imitated and never duplicated.

Sandinista! is an interesting record, it is stuck in between two records that are still widely known and listened to. Coming out a year after the now classic London Calling and two years before Combat Rock, which boasts a still frequently played single “Rock The Casbah” – it seems that Sandinista! Might have fallen a bit under the radar as the years have gone by. I will come clean now, I am not the biggest fan of The Clash that has ever walked God’s green, but I respect them and enjoy a significant amount of the music they have created. That being said, I don’t think until I was preparing to put this review together have I actually sat through the entirety of Sandinista! - I guess I can cross that off of my life long to do list, hooray! This is a long, and I emphasize long, album. Sandinista! was originally released as a triple album, featuring 36 songs, clocking in at just over 144 minutes in length. I didn’t have the pleasure of being alive in the golden age of vinyl, but my millennial attention span has a difficult time dealing with a release of that length, especially one that spans as many musical genres and styles as Sandinista! does. This record reminds me of a really long hip hop album that has a skit you need to skip every song or two, the first few times you hear the skits they are funny, but after that I could do without them.

Sandinista! is an impressive record, it showcases a skill and talent that few bands possess, let alone could pull off the way The Clash have. However, after 36 long years have passed since its initial release, Sandinista! left me confused. I know many will dispute my lack lustre rating of this record; but as much as I want to, I just don’t really understand what is going on here as a whole, and I don’t think The Clash necessarily did either. I know there will be the fan that claims this record is a work of genius that transcends genres and will go down in future history as the masterpiece that it is, but I don’t see it. This record is long and confused, the message the band is sending to the listener has been lost over the years, an individual born in 1994 isn’t going to know about the world music craze everyone thought was coming in the 80’s that didn’t quite catch, and it comes off as a bit of a mess.

This record does have highlights; there are a few songs on Sandinista! that are up there as some of the best songs The Clash have written. The songs “Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)” and “Police On My Back” are two of my favorite songs by The Clash, but do I want to sit through the other 25 songs that haven’t aged very well to get to those gems? No, no I don’t. The Clash cover genres from gospel rock, which is, showcased nicely in “Hitsville U.K.” all the way to dub, ska, world music, and pop. The rock/pop songs are the songs that really exhibit The Clash attitude and style that has gone down in history, but as a whole Sandinista! is a record that hasn’t aged as well as some of the other records from The Clash discography.

To conclude this (long) musical journey, I can’t say that I would recommend Sandinista! to any newly interested fan of The Clash to start with, over some of the other classic records to choose from, but it is not without its charm. This is a record for steadfast fans of The Clash and individuals who remember picking up a physical newspaper and reading the first reviews in the early 80’s. There are some awesome songs on Sandinista! that deserve to be in many punk rock playlists of the future, but the record as a 36 song, triple album whole is not the cream of The Clash crop.