joshthevegan: (screamy)

Bad Brains' self-titled debut is arguably the most important hardcore punk release of all times. Initially a cassette-only album, it has since been reissued on CD, vinyl, and digital formats and has been hailed critically as the enduring, influential, powerful work it is. The seemingly disparate genres of hardcore punk and reggae that the 'Brains introduced on this album would not only serve as a template for the rest of their own recording career, but would inspire some punk artists to blend ska and reggae with punk and some other musicians to explore extreme dynamic differences within their compositions.

The fantastic, legendary cover art (designed by David Lee Pearsons) is one of the most immediately identifiable images in rock history. The Bad Brains had originally hailed from Washington D.C. and had been such an explosive force there, and their shows so famously chaotic, that they were literally banned from playing in basically every venue for live music in the city (which inspired this song from the album) forcing them in effect to another town to continue as a band. This is how they ended up in NYC where they recorded these tracks. But the songs, their spirit, and their lasting legacy is firmly rooted in the Washington D.C. hardcore punk scene (which the Bad Brains more or less invented and influenced). With this in mind, a lightning bolt striking one of the best known buildings in D.C. is a fitting depiction of their time there.
joshthevegan: (screamy)

Originally conceived as a jazz-fusion group under the moniker Mind Power, Dr. Know and his companions (including vocalist H.R., bassist Darryl Jenifer, and percussionist Earl Hudson) eventually broke from that format, and pioneered what would become hardcore punk. Blending the attitude and aggression that bands like X and the Germs had introduced with the intricate rhythms and melodies from their jazz background, the Bad Brains created a musical experience unlike any other. They inspired legions of followers to begin their own musical careers (everyone from Ian MacKaye to Henry Rollins to the Beastie Boys owe allegiance to the Brains), and left a mark on the sound of east coast punk the impact of which is second only to the Ramones.

Hardcore punk was to be only the first of several musical revelations Bad Brains unleashed on the world. Their rastafarian beliefs led them to incorporate reggae into their sets, and after a brief hiatus in the mid-1980's, they returned with a funk-laden metal sound that would rocket acts like Living Colour and Faith No More to stardom a few years later. At the core of every one of these musical twists and turns is Dr. Know. His intricate, powerful and immediate performances still have the ability to amaze.

Here's a quick sampling of the three styles Dr. Know is best known for playing with Bad Brains.

For hardcore punk, here is "Riot Squad".

One of my favorite of their funk-metal offerings, "With The Quickness".

Lastly, a fantastic reggae track that is a study in minimalism, "Peace Be Unto Thee".

Paul Hudson (H.R.) has been an unpredictable artist in myriad ways for all of his career. His vocal stylings are characterized by starts and stops, screams and croons, rage and peace all existing simultaneously. The musical styles he has chosen to participate in are almost as unpredictable as his actual performances. With the Bad Brains, he has sung raging, break-neck hardcore, as well as sunny, cool reggae tunes, and grindy funk metal.

On his first full-length solo album, Human Rights, (his first release since Bad Brains re-formed that same year) he adds another layer of style to his arsenal. It's hard to pin down exactly what style this exactly is, but it combines elements of soul, funk, reggae, R&B, and rock. Unlike other works this artist has been involved in before or after this particular one, all these varying elements exist at the same time in the songs, not as seperate ideas. Where on a Bad Brains album, you will get one hardcore song, followed by one that is most definitely reggae, and then the next song will return to hardcore, on Human Rights songs twist and bend upon themselves, defying categorization. The result is a bit schizophrenic, but not unpleasant.

Lyrically, the content is standard H.R. fare; predictable enough, but strong enough to carry the songs. Obviously he touches very strongly on issues of human rights ("Now you say 'No more welfare!' Must we work for you, with all the evil things you do? Abusing your holy laws, so vain. . .") which is an issue that the singer has found so central to his views, that he changed his stage name to H.R. because of it. There's also a good number of Rastafarian themed tunes on here ("I Luv King Jah", "Conquering Judah") which lend to the feeling that this is a gospel record with a message, not just a pop record recorded just for the fun of it, though this album most certainly is fun, in its own way.

Human Rights - 7 out of 10
joshthevegan: (screamy)

This world is dead )

We will not do what they want or do what they say, oh no )

You can't hurt me, I'm banned in D.C. )
joshthevegan: (screamy)

A peace together, a piece apart, a piece of wisdom from our hearts )

September 2014



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