Time Out, May 14 1982
‘The Clash are stuck with that age-old problem of trying to develop when people don’t want them to and, to an extent, when they helped build the nostalgic rebel image their fans so cherish. Parts of ‘Combat Rock’ could pass unnoticed on American rock radio, while the likes of ‘Know Your Rights’ (seemingly not so successful as a single) hark back to earlier charged anthems.
‘Their funk inventions, ‘Rock The Casbah’ and (echoes of the Heads here) ‘Overpowered’ are as effective as their reggae, although the light skank ‘Red Angel Dragnet’ is strangely ineffective. The use on ‘Dragnet’ of Travis’s ‘Flood’ rap from ‘Taxi Driver’ highlights a questionable battleground-New York romance, part of a Down These Mean Streets (sorry) lyrical context, reaching its peak with a paean to Sean Flynn, the daredevil Vietnam lensman (probably met via their pal and other ‘star’ of ‘Despatches’ Tim Page).
‘It’s with pieces like ‘Sean Flynn’, however, that the real news lies. ‘Flynn’ is like them doing a Weather Report, a lush, gaudy electronic jungle bop. Other excursions appear on the Burundi-tinged ‘Car Jamming’, and the arch, B-movie beat poem-with-a-tea-dance-accompaniment ‘Death Is A Star’, kinda like Randy Newman playing the Roseland Ballroom.
‘But is it a Clash album? The traditional thrashes will probably give the reactionary new punks a small snack between Oi bands, and they bring their customary soul to the mainstream tracks. The eclectic pieces, executed without a hint of tourism, are more than welcome, but will undoubtedly bring down the wrath of ageing bin-liner bores. But if we allowed Lydon to go on to plunder the avante-garde, The Clash should be allowed equal leeway. My only worry is the creeping tone of AORism.’ John Gill