You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: the Clash.

  • Kate Simon

    The Gist

    The Sex Pistols may have gotten there first, but the Clash were the best punk band. Ever. They were also the most versatile. The group released only five albums (nobody counts 1985's crappy 'Cut the Crap,' which was made without guitarist/singer/co-founder Mick Jones), but each of them portrays a restless band in transition. From their early spit-in-your-face singles to the Top 10 showing of 1982's 'Combat Rock,' the Clash, for a time at least, indeed sounded like, as their fans claimed, the Only Band That Matters.

  • Critical Consensus

    The band's third album came out at the very end of 1979, pretty much making it the first great -- yeah, why not, the greatest -- album of the '80s. The Clash messed around with rockabilly, reggae and soul music along with their usual punk. They even managed to sneak a great pop song, 'Train in Vain,' onto the end of it.

  • Contrarian Counterargument

    The Clash's 1977 self-titled debut is their only real punk album. Even the reconfigured U.S. version of the record, which came out two years later, can't compare. They really do sound like the only band that matters here.

  • Counter-counterargument

    'Sandinista!' is where the band really stuck it to the establishment. They produced it themselves, the original vinyl version contained three records and it included everything from dub and disco to rap and R&B. Plus, they named it after communist freedom fighters!

  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Say This

    'Should I Stay or Should I Go' sounded great in that one commercial.