Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Bad Brains’ Debut Album Helped Shape Hardcore Punk.

March 23, 2020 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) In 1982, hardcore punk was in its early years in the U.S. A number of bands took playing faster, more aggressive punk rock. The shows were often rowdy with bands showcase the energy to match their sonic playing. One band that embodied hardcore punk in its performances was Bad Brains.

Formed in Washington D.C during 1976, Bad Brains’ sound was originally rooted in their Mind Power act. Mind Power was jazz fusion with a heavy R&B influence. It was their interest in heavier music such as heavy metal and punk that resulted in the four musicians rethinking their approach and sound.

The Sound of Bad Brains

Fast forward four years later, Bad Brains was busy recording their debut Bad Brains. Still electrifying on shows but they found the time to do their debut. I’d say that the self-titled album really captured the band’s early years the best.

Remember that, we’ll revisit it when we get to Bad Brain’s I Against I. In 1982, Bad Brains dropped the self-titled and it’s a primal, fast-paced sound with H.R’s frantic vocals and the strings being held down by Dr. Know and Darryl Jenifer. Add to this, the raw production and you’ve got a significant piece of hardcore punk and hard rock history.

A-Side Score: 8/10

The thing to know about hardcore punk is that songs are often very short and very fast. Bad Brains is a perfect example of this with the shortest song being just over one-minute and the longest being just over four-minutes.

For the most part, the A-side is just sonic. Blistering songs such as “Sailin’ On” and “Don’t Need It” which kick off the album. However, you’ll go deeper into the album before finding something slower paced. At almost eight minutes in we get “Jah Calling,” a reggae instrumental.

Bad Brains’ early years were hardcore punk but they have an interest in the Rastafari lifestyle and reggae music at the same time. All of the band’s albums feature reggae either as standalone songs, most of the album, or mixed with their punk approach.

The A-side ends on a reggae song following a return to the fast-paced assault earlier on this side. Overall, I’d say this is a really strong A-side. The two reggae songs don’t throw off the overall approach of this side and belong on this side of the album.

B-Side Score: 8/10

Bad Brains’ B-side kicks off with “Fearless Vampire Killers” and takes its cue from the A-side. After this speedster of a song comes an even faster song in “I.” The B-side follows the A-side formula to the letter with faster songs—which collectively take 8 or 9 minutes—before getting back into some slower tempo stuff. Bad Brains’ final two songs on the album are the reggae tracks “Right Brigade” and the hidden tune.

I thought the B-side was really good. The songs were arranged so well that this side had a strong flow. Then again, it was pretty much the same layout in songs as the A-side. As long as the songs were quality there was no risk of dropping the ball on this side.

Album Verdict: 8/10 (Recommended)

This was a strong debut by Bad Brains. The self-title rips throughout but gives you a few songs to catch your breath. While I don’t think anyone would say that the reggae songs on Bad Brains are staples of the genre, the band—at this stage in their career—did the genre justice. They didn’t try to fuse reggae with anything or whatever. Bad Brains played what they felt.

Also, this album was recorded and released between 1982 and 1983. You’re not exactly going to drop reggae on an album because “Yeah, this will sell tons of records! Reggae is hot world wide right now!” No.

Now, I gave this album an 8/10 but in reality, it was higher. What really hurt Bad Brains was the production. If the production isn’t your cup of tea but you want to check out the songs, get the band’s second album Rock for Light. It’s the same songs, cleaner production, different performances, and a couple of new tunes.

While I prefer Rock for Light, the raw approach on Bad Brains works for the songs. It matches the speed of the tracks and the overall pace. This is what high but somewhat unpolished talent sounds like. They’re not raw to the point of just getting the hang of their instruments. At this point, Bad Brains have seasoning and they’re playing extremely well.

The early production just adds something that goes good and bad for the songs.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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