Sound System [box set] - SONY LEGACY
FILTER Grade: 90%
By Nevin Martell on September 10, 2013
There are boxed sets and then there is this boombox set. Designed by The Clash’s Paul Simonon, this über-über career capsule includes a myriad of tricked-out treats. Pop the top to reveal a carefully organized library of the band’s five studio sets (1985’s Mick Jones–less swansong, Cut the Crap, is pointedly omitted), bonus discs, a DVD and a profusion of paraphernalia. There are stickers galore, a poster stored in a tube mocked up to mimic a cigarette, dog tags, three issues of the band’s fanzine Armagideon Times, and five pins, including the iconic “I Want Complete Control” badge. To help catalog the goodies and keep them organized, the set comes with a hardcover manual mapping out the placement of each element.
All of these perks are nice—and the boombox will undoubtedly look cooler than all fuck displayed on a shelf—but the real purpose of this set is to celebrate the punk pioneers’ music. The Clash, Give ’Em Enough Rope, London Calling, Sandinista! and Combat Rock have all been remastered, giving them a clean crispness that has been missing in other reissues.
The three-CD extras compilation is a treasure trove for completists, featuring more than a dozen unreleased tracks and numerous other rarities. Of particular note are the skanky, steel-drummed “Idle in Kangaroo Court” and an epic, nearly seven-minute version of “Straight to Hell.” Demos from the band’s first two recording sessions in 1976 and six tunes from the quartet’s propulsive gig at the Lyceum in London at the end of 1978 are tossed in for good measure.
At one point, The Clash was marketed as “The Only Band That Matters.” Listening back to this sprawling set, it’s hard to disagree. Sound System drives home the foursome’s adeptness at boundary hopping, while never forgetting the value of a good hook and a politically righteous lyric. These will always be some of the greatest albums and greatest songs ever written. Long live The Clash!