33. police + thieves

“More Clash because one track never really suffices with this outfit, as this overall list makes clear. More Clash tracks than from any other artist. With Police and Thieves their highest placing because it cuts to the truth of it: you’re not looking at the world with clear eyes as long as you think it’s cops versus robbers, police versus thieves. It’s the two of them together, fascists and mobsters, working flip sides of the same venal coin. The trick is to stay the hell out their crossfire. I would’ve been at least twenty-two before I finally had this even remotely figured out. With the Clash and their overall worldview a huge part of my education, Police and Thieves being a cover of an old Junior Murvin reggae tune, which is cool itself. But The Clash’s take, found on their first album, kicks things into full-on anthem status, all the while keeping both the reggae and the punk. Which reminds me of young Ryan and his oft-heard claim that the Clash were the world’s best white reggae band. Amen to that. And to the Clash in general. Maybe not ever the only band that mattered, but it sure felt like it at times.” (Philip Random)

545. political world

“I pretty much gave up on Bob Dylan in the 1980s. Yeah, the old songs were mostly still gathering no moss, but ever since he’d stumbled out of all the Jesus stuff, nothing fresh or necessary seemed to be happening. Everything overproduced, voice way too thin, barely cutting the mix at all, and it kept getting worse. But then, from out of nowhere, right at the end of the decade, the man suddenly delivers Oh Mercy, with Political World the lead off track, telling no lies, taking no prisoners. Like he’d been undercover the whole time, pretending lame, but always taking notes, and now here he was, filing his report, and deep and rich it was. It may even have brought down Soviet Union.” (Philip Random)

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718. revolution

“It’s 1969 and Nina Simone, one of the great voices (and souls) to ever descend upon music, delivers the closest thing she’ll ever have to a pop album. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the Bee Gees, even the Beatles (sort of) with Revolution less of a cover, more of a rousing riff on John Lennon’s call to consciousness (if not arms). Music to change the world either way. Or as a friend once put it, if this is what a political meeting sounded like, I’d join a f***ing party.” (Philip Random)

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916. best of both worlds

Second of two in a row from Midnight Oil, who by the mid-80s weren’t just wearing their progressive politics on their sleeves, their front man Peter Garrett was actually running for office (no he didn’t win, but he would eventually). Red Sails At Sunset was their album of the moment (telling big scary, ugly truths about racism, nuclear apocalypse, environmental meltdown), with Best Of Both World standing tall as a possible alternative Australian national anthem. “I’d stand for it.” (Philip Random)

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1069. U.S. Forces

Midnight Oil’s politics have gotten most of the attention over the years, which makes sense. It’s not as if they weren’t wearing them on their sleeves, with U.S. Forces as good an example as any. But the music should also be noted, because here was an outfit that could rock every bit as hard as the Clash, while also working the sort of pop precision you’d expect from an XTC. And with lyrics like, “Everyone too stoned to start a mission, People too scared to go to Prison,” you had a pretty rich and relevant package with 1982’s 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 as good a place to start as any.