Hellcat - 2001 - 74 minutes
When Joe Strummer re-emerged in 1999 from his self-imposed exile, hopes were high that the punk prince would return to reclaim his crown. Accompanied by a new backing band, The Mescaleros, and with an impressive comeback album, 'Rock Art and the X-Ray Style', Strummer looked and sounded like a man re-born. As a follow-up 'Global A Go-Go' comes as a massive disappointment.
The album is an eclectic, and frequently confused, odyssey through world music, accompanied by Strummer's growling vocals. Opening track 'Johnny Appleseed' is the highlight, a raucous Celtic anthem reminiscent of that other English troubadour Billy Bragg. Unfortunately things deteriorate after that, as Strummer trawls the four corners of the earth for influences.
Virtually every musical fad of the past few years is included, but Strummer appears to be more interested in showcasing diversity for its own sake rather than using it to enhance his lyrics.
With lyrics as weak as an asthmatic ant carrying a particularly heavy load, Strummer lectures his audience on refugees in the backs of lorries, complains about the global marketplace and tells us war is bad. His posturing could only appeal to a 13-year-old's, Manic Street Preachers' influenced, view of the world. The problem is that most 13-year-olds want heavy guitars, misogyny and swear words, not deft Cuban rhythms and the sounds of African drums.
This is not an album without any value however. Any artist insane enough to name a song after a little-known Ukrainian football team, 'Shaktar Donetsk', deserves some credit. The high points of 'Global A Go-Go' are not all that common or all that high, but come when Strummer is dealing with musical forms that he is comfortable with. Penultimate track, 'At The Border, Guy', shows a subtlety that is missing from much of the album, probably because Strummer is using a style, reggae, that he is familiar with.
The album ends with a cover, but by the time 'Minstrel Boy' has finished its self-indulgent 17-minute ramble you can only vaguely recall what you liked about this album and will have even more trouble remembering the fact that this man was once in The Clash.
Tracklisting: Johnny Appleseed – Cool 'N' Out – Global A Go-Go – Bhindi Bhagee – Gamma Ray – Mega Bottle Ride – Shaktar Donetsk – Mondo Bongo – Bummed Out City – At The Border, Guy – Minstrel Boy