The Clash

The Singles
(Sony/Legacy)

The Clash may have scavenged the past for inspiration — calypso, Beat poets, film idols, rockabilly, the Spanish civil war — but never for the sake of nostalgia. And while boxed sets sometimes embalm history, this one suggests the spirit of discovery Joe Strummer might have felt poring through record shops in a West Indian section of London. The obsessive replica of The Clash's entire inventory of 19 singles, right down to faux-vinyl CDs with the original sleeves, might seem like a greatest-hits package decked out in pointless full regalia, but it's also got 46 extra tracks (including foreign B-sides, interviews and other curiosities) and 44 pages of written tributes from people like Shane MacGowan, Mike D., author Irvine Welsh, and soccer star Stuart Pearce. It's a lavish instant record collection/coffee-table book that makes for a brilliant closing argument in defense of "physical media," that 20th-century inconvenience that the disposable MP3 has arrived to liberate us from. As you dig through its crannies and reconsider some of the most restless, soulful rock 'n' roll ever recorded, you won't be blamed for indulging in a little nostalgia along the way.

 
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