Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros

Rock Art and the X-Ray Style

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It has taken Joe Strummer ten years to follow up on his first solo album, Earthquake Weather, with Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, and while the vocals and occasional moments in the music are identifiable as the work of a man who was once a singer, guitarist, and songwriter in the Clash, no one should purchase this album expecting to hear a direct extension of his old band. Strummer, who helped lead the Clash beyond punk rock to a variety of rhythmic styles, has only expanded his range since, and Rock Art and the X-Ray Style is an album of songs built on often exotic, funky beats, few of which rock very hard. Over those rhythm tracks, Strummer sings highly poetic, apparently freely associative lyrics whose meanings usually seem to be either private to him or just not literal. Unfortunately, the vocals are high in the mix and the musical tracks are subservient to the lyrics (which are printed in the booklet) so that one is left to ponder what Strummer is talking about. Coming back after a decade, even on an independent label, it might have been hoped that Strummer would return to action with a more accessible effort than Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, which is unlikely to re-establish him as a major force in popular music.

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