When the Clash arrived, they were already great. Then the London rockers somehow got greater. Today, we’re ranking the studio albums by “the only band that matters” in order of awesomeness.

If Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon had gone the way of the Sex Pistols and imploded after their 1977 debut LP, the Clash would still be legendary. But the band only built on the rage, melody and insight of the early songs to take on more worldly sounds and causes. The addition of drummer Nicky “Topper” Headon brought a rhythmic versatility to a band that was developing at a pace as furious as the first Clash singles.

First came the shift (and growing pains) of 1978’s Give ’Em Enough Rope – which boasted, yes, too slick of an aesthetic, but also more intricate melodies and instrumentation along with some killer songs. It was nothing that could prepare anybody for the eruption of songs, styles and slogans of 1979’s London Calling, a release that couldn’t contain its wit, fervor or audacious smorgasbord of sound to a single slab of vinyl. The Clash pivoted so effortlessly between rockabilly, ska, R&B and more that it was almost a shock when it didn’t come as easy on subsequent releases.

That’s not to say 1980’s Sandinista! (a triple album!) or 1982’s Combat Rock were without musical growth, incredible songs and galvanizing stories from “The Armagideon Times” – but the Clash would never again make it seem so easy. That’s because it wasn’t. In their first five years, the core members pumped out record after record (including the album-length EP Black Market Clash, included in this gallery) without relenting until drugs and tensions tore Headon and Jones away from Strummer and Simonon. A paler version of the Clash limped to a finish in the mid-’80s.

But the Clash burned so brightly for a few years, creating more than a couple albums that rank with the best in rock’s history. Let’s start the clampdown… err, countdown.

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