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.


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)


21st Century Breakdown: Overl00ked: James Eldred’s List of the Best Music of the 2000s That You Never Heard

A lot of music came out this decade, some might say too much. (Definitely too much. -Ed.) Definitely more than any one person could keep track of. So as a public service, in our ongoing series on Music in the 2000s, here are some of the best songs and albums that you most likely haven’t heard (especially if you live in America). Some of these tracks are by established artists that have waned in popularity, so no one took note of their new material no matter how good it was. Others are by up-and-coming young artists, so hopefully they’ll serve as a solid foundation for which to build a solid fan base off of in the future. But sadly the best of the bunch here has since disbanded, so way to go for not discovering them sooner.

10. Oasis: “Falling Down (A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Remix)”
Most of latter-day Oasis was okay, but boring. And their last album (if their recent break-up sticks) didn’t really change that. However, this 22-minute remix of that album’s best single was a home run. Done by the guys from the Future Sound Of London, it transforms the simple Brit-pop ditty into a psychedelic freakout of epic proportions. Bring your own acid.

9. Polly Scattergood: “I Hate The Way”
Definitely an artist to watch in the coming decade, Scattergood lived up to her name on her debut, delivering a scattershot collection of piano-based rock that missed the mark as much as it hit it. And nothing on that record fulfilled the promise of this opening number, an seven-minute confessional that tumbles back and forth between “You Oughta Know” anger and “Landslide”-style sadness. If she keeps this up, she could be the next Tori Amos.

8. Division Day: “Ricky”
Beartrap Island was a perfectly fine record with perfectly fine songs. It was also boring as hell. The exception being this pulse-pounding trip into paranoia filled about one hell of a dangerous river (or something, it’s kind of vague). Since Beartrap Island, Division Day has changed their sound dramatically, so they’ll never record a track like this again, which is a shame since it’s what they do best, even if they don’t know it.

7. King Biscuit Time: “I Walk The Earth”
Steve Mason from the Beta Band seemingly had so many great songs in him during first half of this millennium that he released some solo under this awful stage name. The best of the bunch was this beautiful, minimalist track, which also had an awesome video. The Beta Band is gone, but King Biscuit Time remains, and Mason is still releasing amazing music under the moniker, but this track from the rarely heard No Style EP remains the best of the bunch.

6. The Young Knives: “Terra Firma”
Man, British nerd rock is way nerdier than American nerd rock. Check out the chorus for this wacky little number: “Fake rabbit, real snake, terra firma terra firma!” Wait, what? Don’t think about it too much, your head might explode. If you know a TMBG fan and you want to get them into post-punk, this track, and Superabundance, the 2008 album it comes from, is the way to go.

5. Ludo: Broken Bride
Ludo is a band on the rise for sure, and their 2008 album You’re Awful I Love You was one of the smartest pop-punk albums in recent memory (and you can read my interview with lead singer Andrew Volpe here). However, they preceded that record with this infinitely bizarre EP, a rock opera about a time-traveling scientist trying to save the life of his wife who died in a car accident in 1985. Instead his invention takes him to the time of dinosaurs, where he has to fight pterodactyls, and eventually to the Rapture. The subject matter is done dead serious and beautiful, if a little impossible to describe.

4. Tub Ring: “Bite the Wax Tadpole”
Mr. Bungle inspired (and produced) hardcore metal about a guy who dreams about a formula for cold fusion but is disappointed with its texture and flavor. It’s twice as awesome as it sounds. This Chicago-based act opens for Mindless Self Indulgence a lot, but they might even be weirder than that lot. Which is really saying something.

4. Bran Van 3000: Discosis
Best known for their minor-hit “Drinking In LA” from their 1997 debut Glee, Bran Van 3000 (aka BV3) really knocked one out of the park for their 2001 sophomore album. There was the brilliantly funky “Astounded” (which featured an unused Curtis Mayfield vocal), the spacey pop of “Speed” and the crazy two parter “Go Shoppin’/More Shopping,” which featured dub-style rap and Pet Shop Boys-style singing all at once. Unfortunately what they didn’t have was American distribution, since their label, the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal, folded right before the record was due to be released.

2. Air Traffic: “Charlotte”
Where the hell did this one come from? Air Traffic’s debut album Fractured Life was good but bland, with the sole exception being this brilliant piece of Brit-pop so good that it not only rivals anything Oasis and Blur did this decade, but last decade as well. This was a hit single in the UK, but not nearly as big as it should have been. In America I think it’s a safe bet that next to no one has heard it. Damn shame, since it’s probably one of the 10 best songs of the decade.

1. Vaux: Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice
One of the greatest musical tragedies of the 20th century so far is that no one has heard of this now-defunct Denver rock band who truly defied all genres with their brilliant (and entirely unheard) second album. The band was signed to Atlantic in 2005, but the label refused to release the album for reasons beyond me (they must not want to be associated with commercially viable rock music with artistic merit). The album sounds like a hardcore version of Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations, which is really amazing when you consider it was complete (if unreleased) a full year before that record.


Del Marquis: Litter to Society EP

Anyone seriously jonesing for new Scissor Sisters material would be wise to check out Litter to Society, the new EP from SS guitarist Del Marquis. Sporting five new tracks and “shadow” versions (think dub mixes) of three of those songs, Marquis unleashes his inner Shriekback – or is it Underneath the Radar-era Underworld? – on the title track, which merges a lyric not far removed from Diana Ross’ “Upside Down” with a bubbly but sinister electro beat. Fans of Marquis’ day job, meanwhile, will gobble up the day-glo “Any Kind of Love,” which could pass for a lost Belouis Some track. Shriekback? Belouis Some? Those are some seriously dated and specific ’80s references, yes, but it’s hard to argue with where Marquis finds his muse when the results are this entertaining. (self-released 2009)

Del Marquis MySpace page


Lee “Scratch” Perry: Repentance

In which the most influential reggae producer of all time – a man who shepherded sessions for Bob Marley and the Congos (not to mention the Clash) – celebrates his 54th release by hooking up with Andrew W.K., the volume-craving lunatic behind such modern frat-rock classics as “Party Hard” and “We Want Fun.” As the late, great Frank Zappa might say: Great googly moogly. The end result doesn’t alter Perry’s sound as much as you might fear (or hope); the production edges him toward machine-made grooves and away from live ones, but when you get right down to it, Lee “Scratch” Perry is always Lee “Scratch” Perry, and Repentance doesn’t change that. Your mileage will vary based on your tolerance for the non-musical (and the skeevy – “Baby Sucker” is easily one of the creepiest songs to come out in 2008), but only the grumpiest of listeners will be able to make it through all dozen tracks without smiling at least once at Perry’s deranged antics; after all, how can you argue with a 72-year-old man who begs Jesus to give him more pussy? It won’t change the prevailing opinion that Perry’s work has been in decline for the last 30 years, but if you’ve got an itch for some off-the-beaten-path riddims, this’ll cure what ails you. (Narnack 2008)

Lee “Scratch” Perry MySpace page