Combat Rock is a disjointed album, with radio friendly singles sharing space with esoteric, trippy material. It was a stripped down version of a proposed double album named Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, but even as a single disc it plays very much like the unfocused Sandinista!
Combat Rock opens with the didactic ‘Know Your Rights’, which probably rates as the most obnoxious Clash song; I don’t disagree with the sentiments, but they’re presented in a humourless way, with a routine musical backing. In the same way, ‘Overpowered By Funk’ could have been fun, but it just sounds tired and routine. The two radio friendly hits – ‘Rock The Casbah’ and ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ – both stand up well, with memorable tunes and lyrics. Drummer Topper Headon wrote and recorded the music for ‘Rock The Casbah’ by himself, while Mick Jones fronts ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ ‘Straight To Hell’ is a great album track, a tender tale of three social justice issues (the three verses cover the shutting of steel mills in the UK, the fathering of children by US soldiers in Vietnam, and the plight of immigrants), even if I prefer the more streamlined live version on From Here To Eternity.
Combat Rock was the best selling Clash on the back of two accomplished singles, but it’s often weird and often unfulfilling.