Two decades after his untimely death at the age of 50, Joe Strummer is still synonymous with the Clash, a band that notoriously dissolved in 1986 leaving behind one of rock's most influential legacies. During the years that followed their demise, Strummer's output was an uneven, if interesting hodgepodge of one-off projects, soundtrack contributions, production gigs, and the lone 1989 solo album Earthquake Weather. Often considered his wilderness years, this period was the primary subject of 2018's Joe Strummer 001, a surprisingly generous box set that also paid homage to his formative pre-Clash years. While the Clash may have been "the only band that matters," Strummer's final band, the Mescaleros, were pretty damned great. A sequel to the aforementioned collection, Joe Strummer 002: The Mescaleros Years makes the case that at the time of his death, he was making some of the most vibrant music of his career. In the late '90s, a newly invigorated Strummer had fallen in with a younger crowd that included acid house producer Richard Norris. The lawless nature of Britain's rave culture meshed with Strummer's own ideals and a project began to take shape that fused the roving campfire scene he'd been promoting with the spirit of the electronic underground. Although Norris' involvement faded out, a proper crew of young, like-minded rogues soon coalesced, feeding Strummer's inherent need for union and off-the-cuff collaboration.
Unlike Earthquake Weather, 1999's Rock Art and the X-Ray Style -- credited to Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros -- revived the searching rebel spirit and spontaneity that was so integral to his best work with the Clash. Adding to this was a renewed commitment to multicultural sounds and the adoption of contemporary production techniques to further spur his interest. Follow-up album Global a Go-Go was an even wilder dive into world music with a sharp folky edge that yielded one of Strummer's best latter-day songs, the rousing "Johnny Appleseed." Writing with renewed purpose and playing with youthful vigor, he was about three-quarters of the way through the third Mescaleros album when a heart attack suddenly ended his life in December 2002. Core bandmates Martin Slattery and Scott Shields were left to finish the album from the existing sessions. Far from being a posthumously assembled curiosity, Streetcore is, in fact, magnificent, a fiery and cohesive collection widely considered to be Strummer's best work since London Calling. In hindsight, going out in such a blaze of glory seems an almost inevitable outcome for one of rock's greatest firebrands and his legacy has only benefited in the years hence. Joe Strummer 002 is worth its weight simply for containing remastered versions of all three Mescaleros albums, but the copious liner notes, ephemera, and bonus disc of demos and rarities make it essential.