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Various Artists: Burning London: The Clash Tribute

Aside from the fact that it pays tribute to The Clash—marking the entry of the one-time "only band that matters" into territory frequently reserved for the likes of Elton John and Led Zeppelin—there's nothing out of the ordinary about Burning London. As tribute albums go, it's strictly by the book, which means it's got a mixture of the good, the salvageable, and the outright awful. In the first category, Cracker contributes an amusing, countrified take on "White Riot," which nicely follows The Afghan Whigs' soulful rendition of "Lost In The Supermarket," probably the only spot on Burning London in which you won't feel tempted to hit the skip button. Also worth noting is Ice Cube and Mack 10's reworking, if that's the right word, of "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" Not much remains of the original, aside from the unforgettable riff and the song-opening yelp, but it's still a pretty good hip-hop track, even if it's difficult to imagine Joe Strummer asking, "Should I stay or bust me a ho?" Another pair, The Indigo Girls, radically reworks "Clampdown." It may not work particularly well, but at least the duo does something with the song, which can't be said of most of the remaining contributions, including 311's "White Man In Hammersmith Palais," The Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "Rudie Can't Fail" and Third Eye Blind's painfully faithful "Train In Vain." Still, these contributions never seem less than passable; Silverchair's rendition of "London's Burning," on the other hand, is every bit as bad as you'd expect, and reason to ponder again what "punk" means these days. If nothing else, Burning London demonstrates how powerful Strummer, Jones, and company were as songwriters, and some of the proceeds do go to charity. But if you have $20 in your wallet, you're better off buying any Clash albums missing from your collection, then giving the change to a worthy cause.


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