Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dusting 'em down #1: 'This Is Big Audio Dynamite' by Big Audio Dynamite

With Mick Jones announcing that he is reforming Big Audio Dynamite with their original line-up to tour and play festivals this year, it seems like the ideal opportunity to get their first album off the shelf and see how it has stood the test of time.

After leaving / being ousted from The Clash in 1983, Jones formed the short-lived Top Risk Action Company(T.R.A.C.). It wasn’t long before this evolved into Big Audio Dynamite, who notably featured Clash film maker Don Letts on sound effects and vocals. Bassist Leo Williams remained from T.R.A.C., and they were joined by Dan Donovan (one of the many future Mr. Patsy Kensits) on keyboards and Greg Roberts on drums.

‘This Is Big Audio Dynamite’ was released in October 1985, and reached the dizzy heights of number 27 in the UK album charts. A futuristic-sounding (at the time) mix of pop tunes with sound effects, film clips and hip-hop like beats, it mixed cultures in much the same way as Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Duck Rock’ had done 2 years before. I don’t think this was acknowledged at the time as much as it should have been - Don Letts was obviously playing a big part in the band’s development, and he brought the filmic quality to the tracks, but let’s not forget that The Clash themselves had embraced a whole range of musical styles, and Mick continued this with BAD.

I bought this on cassette when it first came out and played it to death (I downloaded the 2010 ‘Legacy’ version to listen to while I wrote this) so having revisited it, how does it sound? Pretty good, actually. Some of the musical arrangements undoubtedly sound a bit dated, but there’s no denying there are some great tunes on here. You can’t argue with songs like ‘The Bottom Line’, ‘Medicine Show’ & the classic ‘E=MC2’, which even now sounds great when it comes on the radio (I think Guy Garvey played it on his show just a few weeks ago).

BAD (and BAD II) went on to release a number of different albums featuring various personnel, including their second ‘No.10, Upping Street’, much of which was co-written and co-produced by Joe Strummer. Since then Jones has had a varied career, producing 2 Libertines albums and forming Carbon/Silicon with Tony James (from Sigue Sigue Sputnik & Generation X). For the past 12 months or so he’s been a member of Gorillaz, which has thrust him back into the spotlight and must have played a part in his decision to reform BAD.

Live dates announced so far are:
29th March - Academy, Liverpool
30th March - ABC, Glasgow
31st March - Academy, Newcastle
2nd/3rd April - Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
6th April - Rock City, Nottingham
7th April - Academy, Leeds
8th April - Academy, Manchester
9th April - Academy, Bristol
16th April - Coachella Festival

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