Big Audio Dynamite | Live: E=MC2 – DVD Review

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Guys in punk bands aren’t ever happy. After the release of the Clash’s
seminal Combat Rock in 1982, the band’s two leaders,
Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, had a parting of the ways. Strummer preferred to
stick to the punk sensibilities that had given the Clash their credibility,
while Jones opted for mixing music styles with his new group Big Audio Dynamite.
Since then, a few Joe Strummer DVDs have filtered out, but now, for the first
time, a Big Audio Dynamite performance has been released on DVD. Filmed in 1992
at London’s Town and Country Club, Live: E=MC2 is an
energetic and exciting set of eight songs from the BAD canon.

Basically this is pretty ‘groovy’ stuff, with a melodic feel the
Clash never had (though I’m not damning them). BAD mixes some great elements
(which I guess was Jones’ intention when he split with Strummer). Perhaps
not as innovative now as it was then, the mix of the beat box and sampling was
still a very different direction for Jones. Of the songs, “Medicine Show,”
“Rush,” and “The Bottom Line” work best for me. There’s
just the right amount of sampling with a good steady groove from Jones and Company.
When the band relies too heavily on the samples, as it does on some of the ‘older’
BAD songs, then we sometimes get groove, samples…and not much else. Jones’
voice is definitely distinctive, but it, along with some of the backing vocals,
lack a certain strength and conviction.

The DVD ends with a stellar version of Prince’s “1999.” It’s
almost worth the price of the DVD to see this, a perfect example of what I like
best about Big Audio Dynamite, who know how to get into a groove, throw a few
samples into the mix and never take themselves too seriously. I am ever wary
of rock music concerts that show too much of the audience singing, dancing…and
playing air guitar (God forbid) while I’d much rather be watching the
musicians. Fortunately, Live: E=MC2 shows you a solid performance
from a band that seems to be having a great time on stage, playing around, and
experimenting with a barrage of manufactured grooves and samples — something
that would eventually change the way people listen to music today.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr.


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