Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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JOE STRUMMER & THE MESCALEROS
Streetcore
Hellcat/Epitaph

Joe Strummer mellowed brilliantly in life. He raised three kids, never pimped himself and kept his ideals while modulating his anger. But he never focused that brilliance artistically, probably because focus wasn't his thing--the two-minute intensity of The Clash was an aberration. The Mescaleros' world-music wanderings proceed directly from 1981's Sandinista! and are best joined on 2001's Global a Go-Go. This follow-up was largely complete when Strummer died in 2002, only without vocals on two reportedly rousing songs that were omitted--and also, oddly, without much international color or guest flourish. Strummer is probably telling Bob Marley about its folk-rock skank right now. But there's little chance Marley will return the favor of Strummer's "Redemption Song" cover, even for the standout track "Coma Girl," a lament for a lost youth culture Strummer deserves credit for sticking with, even if he couldn't lead it down the right path.

Blender, Nov. 2003