The Clash, London Calling

It's noteworthy to observe that for however many music acts don't know what they want to be at the beginning, a few of the greats do a style sprawl right in the middle. Yes, London Calling has all the punk attitude you expect from their third album, but also spreads on a healthy helping of soul, jazz, rockabilly and even a touch of ska and reggae (no doubt Guy Stevens' towering influence), and to my great surprise it all goes together brilliantly. You want a revolution? They'll play it. You want strutting and brass? They've got it. Social commentary? Silly jams? Name it. (Pete Townshend-esque guitar smashing? Sure!) The amazing part is how well it meshes; the undercurrent of attitude fuses it all well. In fact, there's so much great stuff here and the deft touch between edgy and entertaining is so adeptly handled that I can't think of a song I didn't like. But that's kind of its weakness, isn't it? It's 19 tracks of everything under the sun, and I do mean everything — like almost every double album ever made it goes on a bit too long even if the going's really good. The 25th anniversary version adds on a disc of premixes which have the same energy but not the same level of production, and except for the handful of unreleased tracks mixed in they're interesting exactly once. (Content: adult themes in "Lovers Rock," violent imagery in "Spanish Bombs," "Koka Kola" and "Guns of Brixton.")