Here’s two big ways to win big if you are looking for some solid music content:
For those of you who like new-old things, I reviewed the new Joe Strummer compilation album Assembly for Pitchfork. It’s a lovely collection of his solo work that reminds us all how much we miss Joe and how much we also miss his collaborative partnership with Mick Jones.
Following the unfortunate dissolution of the Clash, Strummer’s erratic tendencies became further ingrained without the organizing principle of the band. He globe-hopped relentlessly, indulging both his curiosity and his appetites, a culture-shifting punk icon turned genuine nowhere man. Creatively, he remained as fertile as ever, but without Jones to challenge him, his sundry projects with backing bands the Mescaleros and Latino Rockabilly War varied wildly in quality. The groundbreaking dub and electronic interludes that populated later Clash records Sandinista! and Combat Rock frequently drifted into inchoate sketches, while Strummer’s well-honed ear for hooks clearly needed Jones’ singular ability to bring them to the fore. In this sense, Strummer’s entire solo career was a lost opportunity. Still, inevitably, the highs were high and in many ways well suited to the best-of treatment, which manages the editing that Jones never got to do.
For those of you who like old-new things, the good people over at Stereogum are updating all of their “Counting Down” lists. My husband Timothy and I wrote a ton of these when they initially launched the project a few years ago and now we’re going to be adding to all of our original work! We recently refreshed our Elvis Costello albums “worst to best” list, added in a few of the beloved entertainer’s new records and just made the whole piece even more excellent than it already was. For those of you wondering where we ranked 2018’s Look Now, well… you can, ahem, look now.
From the beginning of his career, Costello’s output has been marked by a tense duality between his inarguable genius for a certain kind of literate, melodic Beatles-esque pop and his profound curiosity and near catholic embrace of popular music’s different forms. As a great lover of and curatorial expert on everything from modern jazz to early American country to baroque classical music, he has long strived to find ways to integrate these strands into his catalog, with laudable degrees of ambition, and varying degrees of success. Dating at least as far back as his half-successful 1981 Nashville-covers album Almost Blue, the creative restlessness has proven both a blessing and a curse for a songwriter capable of turning out unforgettable pop songs like ticker tape, but not always content to do so.
Check ’em out!