Friday, August 15, 2008

Bad Brains - Bad Brains

Bad Brains - Bad Brains

What else is there to say about Bad Brains? Originally a jazz fusion band named Mind Power, these early hardcore luminaries would eventually adopt a grinding rebellious attitude to their music, turning into one of the bands who would shape 80’s punk rock at its core. Formed by four black Rastafarians, the band was an oddity in the D.C. scene, espousing peace and love one second, and furious anger the next. Known early on for their energetic and chaotic live shows, as well as their technical superiority when matched against their peers, Bad Brains would reach much notoriety within the D.C. hardcore scene, eventually being banned from a number of clubs and being forced to re-locate to New York (which would become the subject of the song “Banned in D.C.”). They released their first album in 1982, the self-titled Bad Brains, an album heralded to this day for its influence, as well as its innovative blending of numerous disparate genres.

One of the most interesting things about this album is the unique way the band incorporated a wide number of influences into a fast-paced and dynamic form of hardcore. Guitarist Dr. Know could shift from searing punk rapidity (“Attitude”) to lumbering metal heaviness (“Supertouch/Shitfit”), to gentle reggae beats (“Leaving Babylon”) with skill and proficiency in each area. This new and novel take on punk music was almost unheard of, as the band could jump back and forth between slow, lulling reggae tunes about inner peace, to short, frenzied bursts of anger taking umbrage at anything and everything.

But it wasn’t this duality that made the band great; it was their frantic, psychotic take on hardcore, brimming with energy and ethos from start to finish. It was singer H.R.’s notable wails, screaming each note with passion and fury. It was the way the bass played with the guitar to create an ominous heaviness not unlike Black Sabbath in songs like “Fearless Vampire Killers” and "Big Take Over". It was the way the band created intensity out of nothing, almost bridging over into the sort of horror punk bands like the Misfits were playing at the time. It was the combination of these and many other things which made them unique, and which made this album unique.

With their self-titled debut, Bad Brains created a classic, a punk masterpiece that refuses to play by anyone else’s rules. By summoning a number of contrasting influences into one package, and playing it with energy and conviction, they ended up influencing a generation of future artists.

What else is there to say?

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