Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

Mescaleros (Hellcat/Epitaph)

After more than a decade of relative silence following the dissolution of the Clash, the iconic singer-guitarist formed a new rock and roll outfit, the Mescaleros, which cooked with more Caribbean, African, and South American flavors than his old globally minded group ever had. Two warmly received albums later, he and his band were nearing completion of a third effort at the time of his heart attack last December at the age of 50, leaving Mescaleros Scott Shields and Martin Slattery to tie up the remaining loose ends.

As with most albums released under posthumous circumstances, the temptation surely exists to proclaim that Streetcore finds Strummer at the absolute top of his game. Here's the honest truth: The album isn't without its flaws (like a so-so reading of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" and the vaguely Madchesterish "All In a Day"). But overall it's a gratifying listen that, at its best, hammers home the sad reality that a gifted, zealous songwriter is no longer with us. Such moments include the ardent acoustic folk number "Long Shadow," the world-weary sweep of "Burnin' Streets," and the rhythmically rousing anthem "Coma Girl," the latter on which joyful, impromptu chuckles frequently punctuate Strummer's charismatic rasp. Throughout Streetcore's highs and lows, his sincerity and passion never wane, which makes it almost impossible to believe it was his heart that ultimately failed him.

 
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