Back to Big Audio Dynamite
I drove to Maine on Saturday morning, and before I left I grabbed a stack of CDs for the long car ride.
The stack contained a lot of good music — TV on the Radio, Wilco, Passion Pit — but my favorite album, by far, was Big Audio Dynamite II’s “The Globe.”
This is an album I listened to constantly during my freshman year of college, but eventually forgot about. Which isn’t uncommon: There are plenty of albums that I’ve listened to over and over again, only to set them aside when I discovered other bands and musician. Occasionally I revisit these old favorites, and I’m either reminded of how good the album in question is (“Why don’t I listen to this more often?”) or I wonder what I was thinking.
After listening to “The Globe” for much of my trip, I’m wondering why this album isn’t more famous. Sure, most rock fans are familiar with the hit song “Rush,” which kicks off the album, but it’s not like the album ever pops up on lists of the greatest albums of all time. And I’m thinking that maybe it should.
Released in 1991, “The Globe” is catchy and brash, showcasing a mix of styles — punk, dance music, hip hop, funk, etc. — and lyrics that convey excitement, recklessness and a deep desire to party all night. One of the more interesting things about the album is that it isn’t just for kids: The songs were clearly written by an adult looking back at his youthful hijinks, and trying to tap into that joyous feeling of having the whole world ahead of him. “Rush,” of course, sets the tone: “Now I’m fully grown/And I know where it’s at/Somehow I stayed thin/While the other guys got fat/All the chances that are blown/And the times that I’ve been down/I didn’t get too high/Kept my feet on the ground/Situation no win/Rush for the change of atmosphere/I can’t go on so I give in/Gotta get myself right outta here.”
It goes without saying that this is a great song for a road trip, even a short one. But the rest of the songs on the album are also quite good, and my favorite song might just be “The Globe,” which manages to make me laugh and make me feel like dancing, which is no small feat. There are all sorts of crazy sounds and beats in this song, and I love how the high-pitched sneeze-like sound is followed by a cheeky “Bless you.” It’s a total non-sequitur, and it’s perfect. Then there’s the rest of the song, which plays as both a party anthem (“Come on dim the lights/It’s party time/Switch on the strobe”) — and an ode to spontaneity and wild abandon (“Axes spins so round and round we go/Where we’re goin’ no one really knows/Here we here we here we here we go”).
Interestingly, the song that was my favorite back when I was a freshman in college, “Innocent Child,” now strikes me as the worst track on the album — a syrupy, cliche-filled tribute to childhood. But maybe I’m just a grouch. The teenager in the car loved it, which makes me think that it’s just one of those songs that you love as a teenager, and cringe at a little bit as an adult. And there’s nothing wrong with that, really.
Big Audio Dynamite II was formed in 1984 by Mick Jones of The Clash, which might explain why this band has never gotten its due. The Clash is the superior group, but also the more serious group — politically potent, groundbreaking and uncompromising. Big Audio Dynamite II, on the other hand, always sounds a bit like they’re messing around and having fun in the studio. But they did write a lot of great songs that still sound great today. “The Globe” is an album worthy of rediscovery.
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