CD Review of The Globe by Big Audio Dynamite II

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The Globe
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Columbia
Released: 1991
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What’s an old punk to do? Well, you could continue along the same old lines and rebel and posture and go for some sort of protesting political bent, or you could embrace dance culture and sell a whole hell of a lot more records. For ex-Clash dude Mick Jones, the latter was the choice. But when you come from the Clash, you’re pretty much anything but punk. Not to diminish the band’s impact through punk, but it takes a shitload more talent than most punk bands have to create a masterpiece like London Calling and hit the big time with “Rock the Casbah” on the singles charts and still have all that nice integrity. Fuck, the Clash moved beyond punk’s narrow borders after their first album, anyway. At the core, they were just a brilliant rock band that could do whatever they liked.

After the dissolution, however, Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite, a funky little combo that successfully broke free from much of the Clash’s shadow. They had a nice little moment with “Come On Every Beatbox” early on, but it wasn’t until Mick rearranged and rechristened the group as B.A.D. II and issued The Globe in 1991 when they really made their mark. Here was the old punk mixing it up with young blood and embracing the rave and house nations and scoring a couple honest hits along the way. It wasn’t to last for the long run, however. The band was renamed once again as Big Audio and the next album was pretty much ignored. But that’s how it is with the dance crowds.

Of the two big singles from The Globe, “Rush” is the better. Against a two-chord guitar backed with a thick house beat, the tune crashed right on through to all those alternative kids’ speakers and got them doing their floppy dances all over the world. Hell, it even managed to incorporate a sample from the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” to boot. It sported a hell of a funky middle section as well, that for whatever reason was excised from the single edit, gutting the song for the popular radio airwaves, but it still got people to go out and buy the album.

The other single, the title track, was a little goofier and a lot less engaging. Though on first listen, it was quite all right. The band managed to sample “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” from Combat Rock and at the same time introduced a whole new legion of kiddies to the Clash. But the song is really skeletal in its musical makeup, and after you’ve heard it five times, there’s not a whole lot to groove to, especially when it goes on for as long as it does.

The rest of the first half, is pretty forgettable after all this time. “Can’t Wait/Live,” “I Don’t Know,” and “Innocent Child” weren’t half as hooky or as entertaining as the singles. But where The Globe has always really shined is on its second half. After the decent “Green Grass” opens things, the trio of “Kool Aid,” “In My Dreams,” and “When the Times Comes” are some of the best tunes Mick Jones has ever been a part of, period. “When the Time Comes” is especially haunting when its second half is taken over by vocoders and woodwinds, giving the whole thing a very widescreen theatrical aura. “Kool-Aid” successfully kicks into a true house mix, where “Rush” only kind of hinted at it. And “In My Dreams” sports a funky bass line and skeletal hooks that snag your ears on first listen. Here’s a case where the less is more approach works well.

The Globe closes with “The Tea Party,” which is nothing much but a silly reprise of a bit of what came before. The kind of thing that would have fit right in on Sandinista! It’s what you call a light-hearted ending, and that’s all very well for the album, above all else, is much a celebration of the dance code. Jones puts a few politics in here and there, but it’s nothing that no one really noticed. But that’s all right, as he managed to hit the charts again with a very successful mixture here. That isn’t to say that elements of the album don’t sound very much of their time. Like disco, you can pretty much spot an early ‘90s techno/house-infused album. But The Globe is still one of the best of its time and well worth dusting off every now and then and dancing to once more.

~Jason Thompson