Big Audio Dynamite: This Is Big Audio Dynamite (Legacy Edition)


RIYL: Public Image Ltd., Primal Scream, The Clash

Big Audio Dynamite are kind of a “lost” bands of the ’80s. Sure, you may still hear “The Globe” a cut from the band’s second incarnation Big Audio Dynamite II, on retro playlists, but aside from that they’ve all but vanished from the pop culture lexicon, not that they were that big a presence on it to begin with. The band’s measured success remains befuddling when you consider it was Mick Jones’ baby, the group he put together after getting fired from the Clash in 1983.

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Hopefully this new Legacy Edition re-issue of the group’s 1985 debut will open the band up for re-evaluation. The importance of This Is Big Audio Dynamite has faded over time, but when it came out it was a technological wonder, the first rock record to embrace the sampling movement of rap music and take it to a direction never heard before. While singles like “E=MC²” and “The Bottom Line” may seem a little quaint now, they were revolutionary at the time in how the took samples from movies and other sources and seamlessly incorporated them into the music. It’s a style you saw resurface just a few years later in bands like Massive Attack and Portishead. Ahead of their time back then, it now sounds dated in the most charming of ways.

The bonus disc is what makes this re-issue really worthwhile though, because while the album versions of their singles were always good, the 12” remixes was where the band really shined. Making the package an even sweeter deal are excellent b-sides such as “Electric Vandal” and the forgotten title track, which is a condensed amalgamation of nearly every sample that appeared on the album. Even the goofier bonuses, such as the vocoder version of “BAD” and the beyond-silly “Albert Einstein Meets the Human Beatbox” are welcome time capsules of a bygone era where stuff like this was groundbreaking and cutting-edge. A must-buy for fans of the band as well as fans of dance-punk who want to see where it all started. (Columbia 2010)

  

SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 1: Nas & Damian Marley

Back over to Emo’s main outdoor stage for a highly-anticipated midnight set from Nas & Damian Marley, who have a new collaborative album out. The place was packed and rightfully so, for this was a truly electrifying set mixing the ace hip-hop skills of Nas with the classic reggae vibe of the Marley clan. Nas opened it up with one of his classic raps and then introduced Marley, who sang/rapped over a “One Love” groove. The duo kept mixing reggae and hip-hop throughout the set, such as on “As We Enter,” which featured a line from Nas about the duo being “real revolution rhymers.” “Only the Strong” was another strong moment from Nas, while Marley later rocked a “Road to Zion” jam with Nas proclaiming “revolutionary warfare from Damien Marley.” The crowd loved every minute of the superb 45-minute set. This pair definitely won the best new duo of SXSW award and are surely an act to watch in 2010.

  

SXSW Music 2010, Day 1: It Begins

The music world converged on Austin, Texas today for what is generally viewed as the biggest, bestest music industry event in the world. The thing that makes SXSW so unique is that you not only know you’re going to see some great bands you’ve had your eye on, but you’re also going to discover some great new bands. There are so many playing all over town all day for four straight days, so you can’t help but just stumble upon some cool new sounds.

This was the case early on when the line to try and see Broken Bells’ 1:00pm Red River garage show was too long to get in. I wandered over to the Mohawk up the street and there was a band throwing down a strong sound with some Neil Young/Crazy Horse vibes, and some of that My Morning Jacket kind of vibe. It was Yukon Blonde from Vancouver BC. Good stuff.

The line at the Forcefield PR/Terrorbird Media day party at Red 7 was also way too long, so again I wandered up the street and heard some Beatles coming out of Jaime’s Spanish Village, a Mexican restaurant across the street from Stubbs BBQ. It has a small patio where The Eggmen where dishing out the Beatles tunes, which sounded great on a warm sunny afternoon. It was a rotating lineup, with seven musicians up there for great readings of “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Fixing a Hole,” “From Me to You” and “All You Need is Love.”

I waited in a crazy 45-minute line to get into the Levis/Fader Fort, because I wanted to see Philadelphia band Free Energy. The band’s studio stuff sounds amazing, but it was too bad they didn’t seem able to match it live. They have great gear, great looks and a great name, but something in the musicianship seemed lacking. Maybe I’ll give them another shot on Friday. The venue was pimped out though, dubbed by one fan as “a funhouse for hipsters.”

Walking past the Independent up the street, I heard the call of a bluesy sound, the Maldives from Seattle were rocking out, also with a Crazy Horse vibe, and maybe some Ryan Adams & the Cardinals influence. The Canadian Blast tent outside by the registrants lounge closed out with Plants and Animals, who blended reverb-y vocals with a cool groove to close their set. Austin’s own Strange Boys packed Emo’s Jr for an 8:00 set of their retro ’60s-style garage rock. There were moments, but I don’t think it was really my thing.

Jonneine Zapata out of Los Angeles caught my attention first with her name and then with her powerful voice at the Red Eyed Fly. This is a great little venue with nice outdoor stage where Zapata and her band rocked the stage with a powerful bluesy sound that recalled Concrete Blonde.

Here We Go Magic packed Club Deville for a 9:00 set. The sound was excellent although the songs kept seeming like they were building up to something that never came. They were doing something right though, as the indie rock crowd seemed to dig it.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings tore up the stage at Stubbs BBQ, with the great band throwing down ’60s and ’70s-influenced funk behind the soul queen. This was the first major highlight of the day.

I caught up with Broken Bells when they followed Jones at Stubbs and James Mercer of The Shins led the band through a collection of tunes that sounded pretty Shins-y, with maybe more synth and less guitar. But when they added some more guitar toward the end, it was even better.

I bailed waiting for Spoon at Stubbs to go back to Emos main for Nas & Damian Marley. Mixing the hip-hop with the reggae was a slamming formula for the really packed crowd, who loved every minute. This is the new duo to watch out for in 2010, what a great set! It was all too brief though, leaving me able to catch the end of Spoon’s set. These guys confuse me. They play three songs in a row that are kind of blah, and then just when you’re about ready to give up on them they throw down a great rocker. Then they play two or three more blah, than some dope groove. Strange formula.

Compared to last year, this first day was so-so at first, picking up toward the end. Things looked primed to pick up tomorrow though, stay tuned…

  

The Heavy: The House That Dirt Built


RIYL: The White Stripes, James Brown, The Rolling Stones

When the Heavy broke with their debut, it truly was Great Vengeance and Furious Fire from every speaker. Listening to that album was like getting kidney punched by the raunchy, drug dusted love child of Curtis Mayfield and the Gallagher brothers. “That Kind of Man” and “Girl” were sheer aural addiction, funky and fun and groovy as hell. It was a smashing debut, chock full of powerful singles…and seemingly no one noticed it at all. The US release in 2008 made no discernible impact, and that is a crying shame.

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Now the Heavy are back with The House That Dirt Built, turning up the volume and the heat by taking their ‘60s and ’70s influence and punching it up with everything from jacked up Bo Diddley beats to Roland Gift-like vocals wrapped in roughly layered, minimalist production. “How You Like Me Now” is full tilt James Brown-esque bravado that shifts into a Mick Jagger-like pleading bridge before ending with a seriously hard-hitting, percussion-driven finale. They also continue to use digital samples to set mood and theme in a way reminiscent of Big Audio Dynamite’s first records. “Short Change Hero” is their Sergio Leone ode while at the same time begs for a Grace Slick vocal.

The most amazing part of this record is the fact that every song makes you sit up and take notice, every track distinct, but the album has an overarching consistency that pulls it all together with consistently dark and driving bass lines, fearless guitars and select horn lines. Throughout, Kelvin Swaby’s vocals chant, scream, croon, plead, growl and demand, always playful and soulfully sexy by turns. The Heavy know how to construct a song to be a hit, short and to the point, catchy without being predictable. This shows up in their hard rocking “What You Want Me To Do?” Two minutes and 38 seconds of grinding desperation and desire. Few bands can take such clear and well known influences and make it sound fresh and new, but The Heavy excel at it. Check this album out. Play it loud, and as David Letterman demanded, play it again! (Counter Records 2009)

The Heavy MySpace page

  

Chris Ayer: Don’t Go Back to Sleep

In the grand scheme of the music industry in 2009, you might ask the question, “Who needs another Teddy Geiger/Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson hybrid?” But singer/songwriter Chris Ayer, though he might fit that exact model of hybrid, is not just another one of them trying to rise above the pack. His latest, Don’t Go Back to Sleep, is Ayer’s sixth album since 2003. Sure, it’s jangly and sure, it sounds like amped-up coffeehouse fare much of the time, but here is something Ayer has that allow us to mention him in the same breath as those guys above without flinching—really good songs. And it’s those songs that will keep you listening to this album and keep you tapping your feet and bopping in your chair like a kid who ate too much candy. It’s also ironic that the Brooklyn-based Ayer recorded this album in Nashville, a city that claims to be about the song but churns out way too much crap—and many of these tunes are better than the bulk of Music City’s collective output. Much of Don’t Go Back to Sleep is similar in tone and tempo, but there really are no clunkers on here. The best of the bunch, though, are the uber-catchy “Lost & Found” and “Pretty Poison,” but don’t overlook the beautiful guitar/vocal gem, “In the Silence.” (LABEL: Another Record Company)

Chris Ayer MySpace Page

  

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