Joe Strummer, “Joe Strummer 001”

Joe Strummer
Joe Strummer 001
IGNITION
8/10

Joe Strummer passed away at age fifty in 2002, seemingly older and wiser than his chronological age. He never lost the lust for life that drove him toward strong and barely controllable emotions, the zest and feel for rock and roll—from the pounding pub rocking of the 101ers to The Clash and its rainbow envisioning of punk and the Sandinista strutting of The Mescaleros.

This compact box set unites all of those bands, sounds, and songs—both beloved and nearly dismissed rarities. But mostly what Joe Strummer 001 does is unleash the late writer/singer/guitarist’s passion into the world, in a small but concentrated dose, while honing in (quietly, subtly) on his adoration of American mythology. He may have spent his post-punk years ranting “This Is England” and “Where Is England” on cassette tapes found remastered in this box, but from the taut and hauntingly Kerouacian “U.S. North” and the crushing “Crying on 23rd” outtake from Alex Cox’s punk flick Sid and Nancy, to latter-day tales-told-torridly such as “Johnny Appleseed” from Global a Go-Go, Strummer was the bruised but tender embodiment of chasing the American dream.

The sounds of the ultimate restless soul course through 001—cough-crooning Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” with Johnny Cash from Cash’s own Unearthed, or dueting with Jamaican master Jimmy Cliff; finding intimacy and shadow within an epic Morricone-like brand of Spaghetti Western country music—yet, so much of the package goes back to his vintage rock and roll vibe of the 101ers and “Letsagetabitarockin,” which appears throughout the collection in several ragged forms. For all of its rain (a cinematic “Tennessee Rain” from Alex Cox’s film Walker; 1984’s spare “Pouring Rain” demo with Clash bassist Paul Simonon) and water (an even sparer “Blues on the River” with just Joe on guitar, voice, and drum machine), this Strummer is rooted deeply in the terra firma of Jerry Lee Lewis–like rock.

Joe was never a flavor of the month, or a trend that needed to be followed or tagged. This box set comes out of nowhere, and yet it does the noble job of fulfilling the needs of fans while simultaneously whetting the appetites of new listeners. 

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