London Calling was a double album, but it’s less than half the length of its follow-up; the triple album Sandinista!, released less than a year later. Named in honour of the Nicaraguan revolution, part of the reason for the excessive length of Sandinista! was a ten album contract that The Clash had signed with CBS. By releasing three albums at once, they were able to reduce this obligation substantially, even though the group themselves made little money from the set, taking the fan-friendly stance of releasing it a price marginally higher than the going rate for a single LP. Of course, it would have been even more fan-friendly to trim this set to manageable length; there’s a really good double album or even a sensational single album hiding among the filler.
The dreck includes a children’s choral version of the debut’s ‘Career Opportunities’, and a dub version of ‘One More Time’ immediately after the original. A lot of this material should have been left as b-sides or unreleased, but there’s also plenty of tier one material. Sandinista! starts strongly with ‘The Magnificent Seven’, one of the first excursions into rap by a white group. ‘One More Time’ is an accessible piece of reggae, while The Clash explore gospel in ‘The Sound Of The Sinners’. The fourth side of the set is arguably the best; ‘Police On My Back’ is the hardest sounding The Clash get on the entire album, ‘Washington Bullets’ is a brilliant piece of political commentary set to a jaunty Caribbean rhythm, while ‘The Call Up’ and ‘Broadway’ are both gorgeous.
There’s plenty of great music on Sandinista!, but it’s also very uneven and difficult to sit through; it’s such a huge chunk of the Clash’s discography that fans need to track it down, even though it’s a very frustrating listen.