(Dynamite) Blast From The Past: Big Audio Dynamite

Big Audio Dynamite

Screenshot from the Big Audio Dynamite video for The Bottom Line

Does anyone ever listen to an album, or watch a movie, or read a book and initially hate it only to come around to loving it months or even years later?  That was the case for me with David Lynch; after watching Mulholland Drive years ago I thougth he was way overrated, now I think if anything he’s underrated.  Such also was the case with Neil Gaiman; when I first tried reading the Sandman series I thought it was lousy, and one year later I passionately read the entire series over a short time.

With music, I originally not only hated Big Audio Dynamite’s album No. 10 Upping Street to the point where I made fun of it a lot but I also considered returning it for a refund.  That was in high-school.  My favorate band was (and still is) The Clash, and I had bought Big Audio Dynamite because The Clash’ lead guitarist Mick Jones was the frontman for B.A.D.  I guess I’d hoped to find in it a continuation of more or less the same great music I loved from The Clash, but instead what I got was an album full of 80s synthesizers, twangy vocals, and dorky electronic beats.  For years the CD loitered around my room like a hobo who knew nowhere else to stay.  Then, not so long ago, I dusted it off, put it in, hit play, and found to my surprise that I suddenly quite enjoyed it.

The album itself is pretty fun.  There’s a lot of sing-songy melodies, cheesy guitar solos, and random sound bytes from movies (one song has Pacino saying “Say hello to my little friend…”).  Beyond that, a lot of the songs have great lyrics that are highly reminiscent of The Clash’s better songs.  That’s partially because Joe Strummer from The Clash put old animosities aside and helped Mick Jones write lyrics.  One of the stand-out tracks is Beyond the Pale, exhibiting the same kind of stark, socially conscious lyrics that made The Clash The Only Band That Matters.  My favorite verse would have to be “My grandpa came from Russia, stowed away hidden in some bales, he took my grandma dancing, to the air-raid sirens’ wail…”  The song also mentions Soweto (probably a reference to the riot that occured there) and blackshirts (a nickname for Italian fascists) all within a catchy pop song structure.  It’s not too often you find such content in music these days, except when Bob Dylan sings “The buying power of the proletariat’s gone down…” in one of his newer albums or when M.I.A. raps that “The price of living in a shanty town seems pretty high…”  

Here’s a youtube video for the song (I didn’t make the video).

Remember, try to ignore the electronic drums…

While I like Beyond the Pale for it’s melody and its lyrics, I’ll have to say that my favorite song from the album is V. 13, and I have no real idea of what to say this song is about.  Here’s the music video for this song (much of the video’s cheesy too).

Then, this album also has one of the absolutely most ridiculous songs I’ve ever heard, on par with Scatman.

(I didn’t make this video)

So much of the sound’s pretty dated, but if you can handle 80s New-Wave, give this album a shot.  I wish they’d release a remix of the album, keeping everything but replacing the electronic drum beats with real drums.

Also, Big Audio Dynamite have reunited and have put on some concerts.  If they come to the Pacific Northwest, I’m there.  Just don’t tell them I originally hated No. 10 Upping Street.

If you want something more contemporary to listen to, check out my reviews of

TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light

Radiohead: King of Limbs

Also, I’ve written a book titled The Madness of Art: Short Stories available on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble.

What’s your opinion of Big Audio Dynamite?


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