Give ‘Em Enough Rope
CBS made an effort to make The Clash more palatable for American tastes, bringing in mainstream rock producer Sandy Pearlman to oversee Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Pearlman bought a perfectionist ethic to the recording sessions, causing Paul Simonon to become so bored that he requested that war films be projected onto the wall in between takes. Most of the liveliness in the recording is drained, as the band slow down from the fast tempos of the debut, even though new member Topper Headon’s drumming is significantly stronger than Terry Chimes’ from the debut.
CBS sent Strummer and Jones on a trip to Kingston to write songs for the album, where they remained terrified in their hotel room for a week, inspiring the excellent opener ‘Safe European Home’ (“I went to the place where every white face is an invitation to robbery.”). The reworking of a folk standard for ‘English Civil War’ is terrific, while the aggressive ‘Tommy Gun’ and the reggae tinged ‘Safe European Home’ are also up to the standard of their best work. With the best three songs are at the front, the album feels very front-loaded; while there’s some other interesting material like Jones’ spotlight on ‘Stay Free’, there’s a lot of middling material played at sluggish tempos with an unflattering mainstream rock sound.
Give ‘Em Enough Rope is disappointing and well below the standards of the albums that proceeded and followed it.