Monday, 17 November 2008
Carbon/Silicon: "The News" (Caroline Records)
I was just a shade too young to have an opinion on The Clash in their active heyday, though I was just in time for the hit-laden Combat Rock (1982). Subsequently a good friend of mine who’d actually spent a lot of time On the Road with the Boys c. 1977 (kipping on the floors of their hotel rooms with a zillion other fans etc) always tried to urge the impress of their mythic status on me. I liked a good few Clash tunes, and was impressed by the way Strummer/Jones/Simonon looked when photographed slouching around in alleyways, but I remained largely agnostic on the bigger issue.
Still, by 1985, having got my basic diploma in Clash Studies, I was sufficiently interested in hip-hop, sampling, and quotable cult movies to be quite excited by the idea of the first album by Mick Jones’ successor outfit, Big Audio Dynamite. Aforementioned Clash-Fan-Mate swiftly declared it piss-poor, and indeed I could see it was patchy: one of those 8-track LPs with 4 or 5 duff ones. But like a lot of people (not all of them into Nic Roeg or Sergio Leone) I was keen on ‘E=MC2’ and ‘Medicine Show’ , and those tunes still sound dandy to me today.
Twice I saw B.A.D. play live in Belfast – the first time in 1986 supported by Schooly D, when they encored with Prince’s ‘1999’. Jones always seemed to need his B.A.D. baseball hat so as to cover his male pattern baldness, but the band made a good lively noise. It was the spirit of the age: white ex-punks embracing DIY urban dance music, the new demotic of beats and rhymes.
That same 1986, however, I couldn’t see anything appealing about Sigue Sigue Sputnik, a painfully strained effort at a second wind by Generation X guitarist Tony James. Fair enough, he conned some big wedge of a deal out of EMI, and got himself and his band tarted up like pineapple-head Bladerunner extras, but the music sounded like it was programmed on and played out of an Atari game system, and the singer was a terrible po-faced ponce who made Mick Jones's strangled-cat vocal stylings sound like Scott Walker.
Anyhow, time goes by. I wasn’t paying attention, but recently I learned that Mick and Tony have got another combo together and are doing it all by download, bless 'em. Thankfully (1) they’ve both quit trying to wear street fashion, and look more like a pair of 50-year-olds suited and booted for a night out down the Dog ‘n’ Duck. Thankfully (2) Carbon/Silicon sound more like B.A.D. than Sigue Sigue Sputnik, and the lyrics of ‘The News’ also exhibit the same kind of cheerful lefty/party spirit that led Jones to title B.A.D.’s second album Number 10 Upping Street.