Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Clash: Give 'Em Enough Rope [Epic, 1978]
Although in the end I find that Sandy Pearlman's production does as much justice to the power of this band as the debut does to their rough intensity, I know why some are disappointed. The band's recent strategy has been to cram their dense, hard sound so full of growls and licks and offhand remarks that it never stops exploding. Here that approach occasionally seems overworked, and so does the vision--this major (and privileged) pop group sounds as wearied by the failure of punk solidarity, the persistence of racial conflict, the facelessness of violence, and the ineluctability of capital as a bunch of tenured Marxists. But these familiar contradictions follow upon the invigorating gutter truths of the first album for a reason--they're truths as well, truths that couldn't be stated more forcefully with any other music. Great exception: "Stay Free," Mick Jones's greeting to a mate fresh out of jail that translates the band's new political wariness into personal warmth. A