Song: Yalla Yalla
Band: Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
Joe Strummer was a true legend and a visionary whose passion for music as a prime mover in life and as an agent of change was as optimistic and as urgent as it gets. All the more tragic that he died in late 2002 from a congenital heart defect - a man in mid-life who had so much yet to give. Never mind all that he did as a key member of The Clash, an epic legacy in and of itself. In the late 90s he created a new band; their 1999 debut album, Rock Art and the X-Ray Style, announced that Joe Strummer was still alive and well, still intent on making music that counts. The best song on that album was this one, nearly seven absorbing minutes of reflective, insistently vital music. In Arabic the title means “hurry up” or “come on” and it was Strummer’s way of saying that things ought to be better for us all by now. It was a scattershot yet poetic plea for social justice, for many wrongs across the world to be magically righted. And it remains a vibrant anthem. Its somewhat ambivalent message of hope alongside despair is buoyed by the kind of deceptively simple melody which uncannily gets under your skin and proceeds to change you from within. The song, an inventive pastiche of dub and reggae flourishes mixed in with doses of contemporary electronica, marches resolutely along at a simmering mid-tempo, perfectly serving the underlying, reverberating vibe; it’s infinitely assured without being slick or even remotely commercial. But for all that, this vivid atmospheric framework is merely a loyal vehicle for an unusually lyrical and nuanced Strummer to tell it like it is. Rarely since the glory days of The Clash has the man sung with so much passion - and sadder but wiser clarity.
Posted by Max MacDonald