Big Audio Dynamite: Megatop Phoenix (1989)

Megatop Phoenix takes the mixed media experiment to new heights. I know, I thought they were moving away from that with their last album, but as the opening “Rewind” concedes, they were working without a map and compass. In retrospect, some sort of manifesto would have helped in understanding what Big Audio Dynamite was after. No one really picked up on the mixed media angle, though a lot of this music could be seen as a harbinger of techno. But were tomorrow’s technobrats listening to this music? If you’re going to make a case for BAD as a revolutionary band, then Don Letts is clearly the Leon Trotsky of this outfit. The snippets that fill the spaces in Mick Jones’ sparse melodies are the musical equivalent of graffiti art. Even the rhythm section seems to take Letts’ cue to become ornamental elements. But at the end of the day, it’s the songs themselves that must take the hill, and they’re simply too sleepy to do it. (OK, no more metaphors, I promise.) If I were compiling a best-of BAD, I’d make space for “Around The Girl In 80 Ways,” “Contact” and “Union, Jack.” If I weren’t cheap about it, I’d throw in “Mick’s A Hippie Burning” and “Stalag 123” to boot. But nothing on here gets under my skin like “V. Thirteen” or “Other 99.” What Jones has come up with are punk lullabies, simple and soporific, and they’re a poor substitute for the punk anthems of The Clash. A lot of people seem to like Megatop Phoenix, and I won’t argue that it’s their most effective melange of media and music. I just wasn’t interested in seeing the two of them wedded in the first place. It kind of makes you wonder what Joe Strummer’s up to.

Original cassette version
A1. Start (B.A.D.)
A2. Rewind (B.A.D.)
A3. All Mink & No Manners (B.A.D.)
A4. Union, Jack (Mick Jones/Don Letts/Leo Williams)
A5. Contact (Mick Jones/Dan Donovan)
A6. Dragon Town (Mick Jones/Don Letts/Greg Roberts/Leo Williams)
A7. Baby, Don’t Apologise (Mick Jones/Don Letts)
A8. Is Yours Working Yet? (B.A.D.)
A9. Around The Girl In 80 Ways (Mick Jones/Don Letts)
B1. James Brown (Mick Jones/Don Letts)
B2. Everybody Needs A Holiday (Mick Jones/Don Letts)
B3. Mick’s A Hippie Burning (B.A.D.)
B4. House Arrest (Mick Jones/Don Letts/Greg Roberts/Dan Donovan)
B5. The Green Lady (Mick Jones/Don Letts/Greg Roberts)
B6. London Bridge (Mick Jones/Don Letts/Greg Roberts)
B7. Stalag 123 (Mick Jones/Don Letts/Greg Roberts)
B8. End (B.A.D.)

The Players
Dan Donovan (keyboards, vocals), Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Don Letts (fx, vocals), Greg Roberts (drums, vocals), Leo “E-Zee-Kill” Williams (bass, vocals) with Flea (dynamite). Produced by Mick Jones & Bill Price; engineered and mixed by Bill Price.

The Pictures
Cover by Bullitt & B.A.D. Photos by Dan Donovan; photo assistance by Mark Bromfield.

The Plastic
Released on compact disc, cassette and elpee on September 5, 1989 in the UK and Australia CBS, 465790-4/1), the US (Columbia, CK/FCT/FC 45212), Brazil (CBS, 177193) and Yugoslavia (RTV Ljubljana, LL1822) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #26 on the UK charts and #85 on the US charts.

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