The Clash - Sandinista! (Cover Artwork)

The Clash

Sandinista! (1980)


"Sandinista!" is considered by many to be a great rock record, a landmark album by one of the 20th century's greatest bands. However, the majority of critics consider this record a mistake, a creative misstep by a band that got too big for its britches. I would have to take the middle road on this. The Clash are my favorite band after all, and there are many great tunes on this album. However, there are also many clunkers and this record can be hard to get through, even after a couple of sittings.

"Sandinista!" came on the heals of the fantastic "London Calling", an album that even today sounds fresh and vibrant. After the success of "London Calling", an incredibly diverse album musically, The Clash decided to try and move away from straight punk and incorporate a bevy of influences and styles. "Sandinista!" is a sprawling, epic work, covering 3 records (2 CDs). Name a musical style, and it is covered on this album, with varying degrees of success. Ska, punk, reggea, R&B, funk, rap, and even a childrens choir meld into a sonic quagmire of a recording, that can be entertaining, challenging and sometimes, downright annoying.

The album starts off strong with the funk/pop number "The Magnificent 7", a good song that goes about 2 minutes too long. "Hitsville UK", "Ivan Meets GI Joe" and "Something About England" are all great songs in their own right, and they give the listener hope for a few more solid tracks. However, the band finds itself getting muddled in half-hearted dub and reggea, and its makes for an almost brain-deadening listen. "Crooked Beat" and "One More Dub" are perhaps two of the worst songs ever recorded by the band. Beyond this point, its almost impossible to care about this album, although bright spots like "Police on My Back" and "Charlie Don't Surf" make the experience a little better. The album comes to a close, not with a bang per se, but with at least a pop. The overly-long "Version Pardner" is listenable, the children singing "Career Opportunities" is tacky and "Shepards Delight" leaves me feeling just sort of impartial.

All in all, "Sandinista" is worth the price of the album for the few good songs. A true Clash fan should have this album in their collection, if not for love of the music, then out of principle. While the music is often misguided and boring, The Clash were one of the bravest bands, and still certainly one of the most important. Even today, bands like Rancid still channel this album in their own music (Rancid's "Life Wont Wait" not only sounds like "Sandinista" but it also references it quite a bit). So pick it up, its worth it just to have it.