The Clash

The Essential Clash [DVD]

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The DVD The Essential Clash is not to be confused with the double-CD compilation The Essential Clash, which has 40 songs spanning the band's entire career. The core of the DVD The Essential Clash is all dozen of their promo videos, including many of the songs that most fans would indeed view as among their most essential output, like "White Riot," "London Calling," "Complete Control," "Train in Vain," "Should I Stay or Should I Go," "Career Opportunities," and "Rock the Casbah." As video promos from the new wave era go, these are decent, veering from the fairly creative to the fairly mundane. Though just a couple of these are identified as live, certainly a bunch of these incorporate live footage, whether the soundtrack is live or not, and that's certainly the best way to appreciate the Clash visually, as Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon had extremely animated on-stage presence (more so on the earlier clips than the later ones). When the clips try to do something other than just film the Clash live or on a soundstage, the results are mixed and, in keeping with many videos, somewhat bizarre, as in the costumes of "Rock the Casbah" (including guys in stereotypical Arab and Jew garb rocking out to the tune), though it's fun to see the group dancing on a wall to "This Is Radio Clash." There are plenty of extra features on the disc, first among them a 50-minute silent (save for the musical soundtrack) 1983 black-and-white film, Hell W10, written and directed by Strummer. Including Jones, Simonon, and Clash friends and road crew among the cast, this was never shown and long believed to be lost. And it's not that much of a find, though of undoubted value to die-hard fans: whether by artistic intention or because the film was actually in rough shape when a copy was located, it's scratchy and jumpy, the story of gangs and drug dealing isn't easy to follow or too compelling, and it looks kind of like an arty home movie that was much more fun for them to make than for us to view. Not a bad soundtrack, though, of both vocal and instrumental Clash music. Also on the DVD is some early promo footage of the band doing "1977," "White Riot," and "London's Burning" (good performances, almost indecipherable vocals), a live version of "I Fought the Law" from the film Rude Boy, and a brief TV interview clip from 1976. It's a shame, though, that no information about when, where, and how the individual video clips were filmed is given, for those of us nerds who care about that sort of thing.