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Served Three Ways: Three Covers of The Clash’s “The Guns of Brixton”

The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton” is probably one of the greatest rock songs ever written. Anyways, it is certainly one of the best rock tracks ever fused with another genre (considering it is maybe more reggae that rock). I love the way it just oozes defiance, rebellion and urban menace. The three covers I collected here are all pretty unique and really shine a light on different aspects of the source material. It’s also just really interesting to see what the covering bands took from the original and what they discarded. Arcade Fire’s live version pretty much strips the reggae from the tune. In it’s place they double down on that menacing urban ambiance featuring Win Butler shouting the lyrics through a megaphone in the middle of a crowded audience. Calexico meanwhile reinvent the groove as a dusty, horn laced South American folk tune (including Spanish-language harmonies). Nouvelle Vague turn in a slithering bossa nova influenced interpretation of the tune.

Arcade Fire – The Guns of Brixton (The Clash Cover)
Calexico – The Guns of Brixton (The Clash Cover)
Nouvelle Vague – The Guns of Brixton (The Clash Cover)

You know the drill, let me know which of these covers is your favorite in the comments section.

Posted by Matthew Hickey

MattNekoRecords

Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • Brian

    I love me some Served Three Ways! Such an awesome feature.

    My favorite cover (without havening listened to the Calexico version yet) is by Nouvelle Vague. I have fond memories of listening to it on a friends porch during the summer while drinking mimosas.

  • Brian

    Just listened to the versions buy Arcade Fire and Calexico, and I have my official choice. Nouvelle Vague is still my favorite. It retains the tension of the original, but whereas the Clash make it sound like a warning, Nouvelle Vague make it sound like a dare.

  • http://www.facebook.com/SuzyHillard Suzy Hillard

    wow! Hard to choose which I like best, they are so different and each great in their own right. If I have to choose I pick Calexico because it’s so unexpected.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Matthew

    “Nouvelle Vague make it sound like a dare.” Well put!!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Matthew

    I’d agree, Calexico’s is so unexpected! It almost doesn’t sound like the same song.

  • http://twitter.com/panoptic J. Veloz

    Nouvelle Vague. Arcade Fire sounds good but the quality isn’t very good.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Matthew

    It’s true, the Arcade Fire cover is from a live recording. And that Nouvelle Vague cover is just hard to beat.

  • http://twitter.com/JamieSLC Jamie Gadette

    I love the Nouvelle Vague version. I’ve also been enjoying the Jimmy Cliff’s recent cover of the song (which name checks his role in The Harder They Come)

  • Brian

    I have to hear this version!

  • http://twitter.com/ElLCoolJ jeremy stein

    Arcade Fire: The sound is rough to listen to sitting here at my desk. I think that the rowdiness of witnessing this live would be a lot of fun… stomping and all…but not to listen to at home…

    Calexico: Haunting voice to start us off and then the language shift… unexpected (although enough other people have said that so it really shouldn’t be unexpected anymore)

    Nouvelle Vague: Love her voice, and the cabaret beat would get a thumbs up from Joe Strummer.

    If I had to vote I throw down for Nouvelle Vague….

    BUT… also check out the version by the Anacondas from the album “Charlie Can Surf”… its an amazing album of Clash covers in Surf music format… ass kicking!

    p.s. I dig the 3 song format

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Matthew

    I’d love to hear some surf rock Clash covers! If you dug back far enough you might find a whole mixtape I did of surf rock… though I doubt the link still work.

    Yeah, the Arcade Fire is very rough. It was recorded during the early part of the Neon Bible tour. The whole band would leave the stage and then work there way to the center of the crowd to perform two songs with Win singing through a megaphone. Oh, and I’m almost positive this was in a church in London. Must have been awesome – too bad that because of it’s very nature there is no such thing as a soundboard recording of this.

    Anyways, thanks for the recommendation and very thoughtful comment!

  • http://twitter.com/ElLCoolJ jeremy stein

    It was your surf rock mix that reignited a long dormant love of surf rock in my soul. It had been years since I felt that groove and you kick started it again. Then I found this album that melded the chill/frantic pace of surf rock with the riffs and ska beats of the Clash so well… Rudie Can’t Fail I think is my favorite on the album, but it is a hard call. So many are so good. Some are instrumental and some are sung.
    http://www.divshare.com/download/16691938-c61

  • Selekta Bruddah K

    You missed one of the best covers: “THE GUNS OF CALI” by THE COUNTERPARTS ft. NATIVE GUNS (Beatrock Label)

  • Selekta Bruddah K

    I should say that it’s more than a cover, since it features original lyrics!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Matthew

    Thanks Selekta. I haven’t heard that one before, but I’ll be sure to check it out.

  • Pingback: Calexico, Arcade Fire, and Nouvelle Vague Each Cover The Clash “Guns of Brixton” « Rock God Cred

  • downvalleygirl

    i heard a ska version of this song with a female lead singer…..can’t remember the band’s name but the best cover of this song i’ve heard so far. anyone????

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Matthew

    Not sure who did that one. I’ll see if I can uncover it.

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