Music » CD Reviews

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

Streetcore (Hellcat/Epitaph)

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In defiance of the old F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, Joe Strummer was well into his life's second act when a heart attack felled him last December at age 50. After more than a decade of relative silence following the dissolution of the Clash, in 1999 the iconic singer-guitarist finally came to terms with his past by forming a new rock and roll outfit, the Mescaleros, which cooked with more Caribbean, African, and South American flavors than even his old globally minded group ever had. Two warmly received albums in, Strummer and band were nearing completion of a third at the time of his passing, leaving Mescaleros Scott Shields and Martin Slattery to tie up the remaining loose ends.

As with most posthumous albums, the temptation exists to heap lavish praise upon Streetcore. Here's the honest truth: Streetcore isn't without its flaws (like a so-so reading of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and the vaguely Madchesterish "All in a Day"), but overall it's a gratifying listen that often hammers home the sad reality that a gifted songwriter is no more. Through Streetcore's highs and lows, Strummer's sincerity and passion never wane, which makes it almost impossible to believe that it was his heart that ultimately failed him.

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