Although some might hold (and stridently defend) a differing opinion, four bands basically served as the cornerstones of punk rock: Iggy And The Stooges, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and The Clash. Of these brash iconoclasts, The Clash garnered the most radio airplay, sold the most concert tickets, and moved the most records. All punk music is about essentially two things: alienation and rebellion. The Clash sang about and signified these themes better than anyone else.
Sony Music’s Legacy division outdoes itself with the release of Sound System, the ambitious (and all-encompassing) Clash box set. To say it is an extraordinary musical collection is an understatement. Re-mastered by Clash guitarist Mick Jones and engineer Tim Young (who won a Grammy for The Beatles’ Love collection), Sound System totals 13 discs filled with music and a DVD of performances and historical footage. All the studio albums (The Clash, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, London Calling, Sandinista!, and Combat Rock) are here with sterling audio, as well as three CDs worth of precious outtakes, demos, live tracks, and bonus cuts.
From the band’s earliest demos recorded in mid-1976 (with an aspiring film student named Julian Temple) to the final recordings made before the core group fell apart in 1983, the timeless material that made this group so impactful is here in one massive collection. The only missing link is the one disc released without Jones (1985’s Cut The Crap). A minor snafu, really, especially since most fans considered the band kaput when the guitarist was forced out after Combat Rock.
Decades after the band’s heyday, the reason these Brits touched a nerve remains clear: They had powerful songs sung with compelling conviction. It remains a sad end to the band’s history that Joe Strummer died of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect in December 2002, weeks before the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The fact that the group has become a radio staple with songs “Rock The Casbah,” “Train In Vain,” and “London Calling” proves, as does this box set, that The Clash have endured the test of time.
9 (out of 10)
– Bruce Pilato
Depeche Mode live!
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 (First Midwest Bank Amphitheater)
Not many if any electronic acts have been able to survive the ‘80s, let alone the ‘90s, and continue to thrive over three decades since its inception. Granted, Depeche Mode isn’t racking up the hits like it did in those heydays, but the group has clearly transcended multiple generations and prominently rubbed off on pretty much every EDM act that’s tried walking in their shoes. Make no mistake, singer Dave Gahan, guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher still populate one of the biggest bands in the world, who had no trouble selling out soccer stadiums internationally earlier this year and also pulled in a densely populated crowd at the sizeable First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre on its first area visit since headlining Lollapalooza in 2009.
Back then, the band was coming off the high of Sounds Of The Universe, which was considered by many as a modern day version of the 1990’s dance-floor filling Violator. Perhaps its only fitting to find 2013’s darker Delta Machine paralleling 1993’s more introspectively-minded Songs Of Faith And Devotion, though rather than picking just one personality, the trio took faithful on a roller coaster ride through the nightlife and the morning after comedown, all while sounding remarkably cohesive and consistenly inventive.
The new project’s opener “Welcome To My World” launched the show as a slowly building marinade with an understated hint of the eventually elaborate visual projections that complimented the moods of most songs. The brooding rhythms and industrialized synths from fellow fresh cut “Angel” soon blended seamlessly with “Waling In My Shoes” from twenty years prior, and by the time the latter’s first anthemic chorus hit, it was apparent the always magnetic Gahan had even those on the lawn practically in his back pocket.
From there, the time machine turned back at lightening speed, spanning the percolating “Precious” through the trusty popper “Policy Of Truth” and the haunting “Barrel Of A Gun.” The tone may have shifted towards a more acoustic mindset once primary songwriter Gore sang “Higher Love” and “Shake The Disease,” though the bare bones framework proved his heart-wrenching lyrics still hold up without all of the electronic wizardry.
After building the momentum back up with a resplendent rendition of “A Question Of Time,” the main portion of the set hit an absolutely crescendo with the chilling “Enjoy The Silence” and the charging “Personal Jesus.” Come the encore, DM continued to up the ante, getting everyone to sing-a-long with Gore’s acoustic “Home,” and later, found the 51-year-old Gahan dancing like he was 21 during “Just Can’t Get Enough” (perhaps the only glaringly dated, but nonetheless rapturously accepted sugary, synth-pop throwback of the night).
Vocally, he was in the finest form come the gospel-infused “I Feel You,” though when it came to charisma, nothing could top the group’s gothic gem “Never Let Me Down Again,” which found the masses waving feverishly from side to side as Gahan whipped his lengthy microphone stand around with the ease of a tiny baton. As the two hours came to a euphoric close, Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine proved to not only be in well-oiled working order, but running so superbly there was simply no better “Black Celebration” to be had.