Coachella 2011: Divorced from the Clash, Mick Jones’ Big Audio Dynamite married rock and DJ culture


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In the week leading up to the Friday kickoff of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Pop & Hiss offers a preview of some of this year’s less established or underappreciated artists.

Who: Big Audio Dynamite

When: Saturday

From: London

Mick Jones got a taste of the Coachella stage in 2010, when the former Clash copilot performed with Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz. The latter had just released a new album in ‘Plastic Beach,’ a set of groove-based, genre-bending rock that touched on dance, hip-hop and world music inflections.

When the Gorillaz, an experimental act that often hides behind the cartoon images of artist Jamie Hewlett, opted to tour with Jones and former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, the two did more than bolster the band’s star power. It was a move that drew a direct line between the work of the Gorillaz and the punk rock forebears, as the Clash were a band that had no fear in showing its disco, dub and hip-hop influences.


After the Clash sputtered out in the early ‘80s, Jones further explored dance culture in Big Audio Dynamite, marrying his scruffy guitar riffs with a plethora of samples and a decidedly more club feel. From 1984 to the mid-’90s, the Clash distanced itself from any reunion talk even as Big Audio Dynamite went through numerous lineups and alterations to its name. But the Big Audio Dynamite reforming for Coachella is the original crew, and the one that issued the act’s four most consistent works.

Removed from the Clash, Jones’ Big Audio Dynamite lacked the former’s political militance, but maintained the Clash’s thirst for musical adventurousness. Early hit ‘The Bottom Line’ outlined the Big Audio Dynamite objective, in which sharp guitar notes might anchor a song, but they almost always would be drowned out by a smattering of beats. Lyrically, there were brief nods to topical concerns, but the emphasis was on dancing. Consider Big Audio Dynamite a rock ‘n’ roller’s nod to DJ culture, a sound that would become more in vogue after B.A.D. called it quits (see LCD Soundsystem, Yeasayer and much of the Coachella bill, among many others).


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-- Todd Martens