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RECORD RACK

B.a.d. On The Verge

November 16, 1986|CHRIS WILLMAN

"NO. 10 UPPING ST." Big Audio Dynamite. Columbia. Mick Jones and Joe Strummer together again, co-producing an entire album and co-writing a new batch of songs--hmmm, sounds almost like a Clash reunion, doesn't it? Uh, don't get your hopes up, kids. While the estrangement between the two is over, and Strummer has stepped in to help ex-partner Jones' new group on a behind-the-scenes basis, the second album from Big Audio Dynamite sounds in large part just like the first one, which Strummer had nothing to do with. B.A.D. is still Jones' baby all the way, and in the moments when it most resembles the Clash, it resembles the "Sandinista!"-era Clash, when experimentation was paramount over energy.

And that emphasis in B.A.D. isn't bad. Jones continues to explore the potential of making records into cross-cultural, multimedia experiences: He and his crew mix rock and contemporary black street music while writing tellingly and wittily of everything from London race riots to Beverly Hills hitmen. The emphasis on "found sound"--or snippets of sound effects and dialogue, mostly from movies--is highly effective, and one of the album's best tracks features a lengthy bit of original drama acted over music with Matt Dillon in a key role.

Less successful is the band's continued reliance on electronic dance percussion, which--though of obvious relevance ideologically--musically seems to be more of a constricting force than the liberating one promised in "C'mon Every Beatbox." As on last year's debut, B.A.D. seems an experiment just on the verge of working, if only the group's sense of adventure included breaking through its self-imposed rhythmic restrictions.

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