joshthevegan: (Hank)

Black Flag's mammoth debut long player (which I talked about at length over here) is notable not only because it is one of the finest (or, in my opinion, the finest) hardcore punk albums ever laid to tape, but also because of the iconic photo of singer Henry Rollins putting his fist through a mirror taken by legendary punk rock photographer Edward Colver. One of only a few releases by 'Flag that doesn't feature artwork by guitarist Greg Ginn's brother Ray Pettibon, the image of young Hank reaching a boiling point and destroying things fits perfectly with the destructive mood of the music found within. The band created the perfect soundtrack for frustration, alienation, and abandonment, and Colver captured those same emotions on film, showing just how in tune he was with the musicians and their vision.
joshthevegan: (Hank)

As the brains behind the hardcore juggernaut Black Flag and as the founder of ├╝ber-influential independent record label SST Records Greg Ginn's impact on the underground music scene of the late 1970's and early 1980's is immeasurable. The roster of bands he had signed to SST through the better part of the 1980's is staggering in retrospect. Everyone from Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Screaming Trees, and Soundgarden to Minutemen, Bad Brains, Descendents, and of course his own Black Flag released records through the SST imprint, and all of them went on to considerable acclaim and influence.

The wide variety of acts that SST attracted can be attributed in a large part to Ginn's vision with his own band, Black Flag. The more inventive his band became, the more the label attracted bands with different musical approaches. Although they started as a hardcore punk band (often credited as the southern California band that defined the style) each and every one of Black Flag's releases sounds nothing like the ones that came before it. Where Damaged was an explosive howl punctuated with squealing feedback, by the time they got to Loose Nut, Black Flag was channeling Black Sabbath so completely they hardly sounded like a punk band anymore.

As the band's primary songwriter, each step away from hardcore punk and towards psychedelic, jazz-influenced metal was calculated by Greg Ginn, and he took the band down that path whether or not the fans would like it. It was the music he wanted to play, and if the world liked it and wanted to hear it, then great. If no one cared, it seemed that Ginn didn't either. His focus on art over fame is evidenced by the fact that following Black Flag's demise, Ginn focused on a completely instrumental band, Gone.

His angular, semi-tonal style stands completely alone amongst all his peers. In fact, it is nearly impossible to think of a single person to ever touch the guitar that played quite like Ginn does. He might not be the most polished player to ever pick up the instrument, but what he lacks in cleanliness he makes up for in sheer passion and ingenuity.

To show how much his songwriting changed over the years, here are two songs from opposite ends of Black Flag's career. From the early, hardcore days, "Police Story" (even on a comparatively simple song like this, Ginn manages to add personal flairs through out, particularly at the end.)

The other end of the spectrum is the spaced-out instrumentals the band would perform towards their later years. "The Process Of Weeding Out" is a great example of Ginn at his most expressive.
joshthevegan: (Hank)

Late 2010/early 2011 has seen a number of albums released by "vintage" punk bands/artists. Many of them have been quite good, but the debut release(s) by OFF! is probably the most impressive of all of them. This isn't to say that the new Social Distortion and Bad Religion records weren't great, or that the upcoming release from Bad Brains won't be incredible (I'm sure it will), but OFF! is an unexpected home run.

OFF! is a supergroup of sorts, bringing together Keith Morris (the original lead singer of Black Flag and frontman of Circle Jerks) and members of Red Kross, Burning Bridges and Rocket From The Crypt. This line up only came together after a failed Circle Jerks reunion recording session forced Morris to look for new people to perform his new song ideas with. (Their promotional slogan has been "From the ashes of a really screwed situation!")

The similarities between OFF! and the early recordings of Black Flag are pretty obvious even before listening to the music. Between the band's name (both are insect repellents), the artwork found on the releases (Raymond Pettibon created all the art for the OFF! releases, as well as most of the Black Flag catalog), and even the compilation's name (First Four EPs sounds a bit like The First Four Years, a compilation by Black Flag), the intention is clear. Morris and company want to be clear that they are promising the listener rough, blistering hardcore, trimmed down to the bare bones. Boy, do they deliver.

These songs are living, breathing proof that punk and hardcore are not exclusive to the very young anymore (Keith Morris was 55 when recording these songs). The twelve songs contained on this release are every bit as in-your-face and anti-authoritarian as anything any of the members had recorded in their impressive collective back catalogs, and more relevant than most other punk rock that has come out in the last ten or so years. These are shitty times we live in, and luckily OFF! is there to supply a soundtrack for those of us who are paying attention enough to be up in arms about it. "You wonder why I'm always shouting, You wonder why I've gotta yell. . .'Cause you turned this into a livin' hell!" Morris belts out on "Upside Down". Yeah, that seems about right.

First Four EPs - 9 out of 10

Fix me please, I don't want to be dead )

Is it in the chemicals, or is it just a part of you? )

The Henry Rollins Memorial Ghetto )

I may not know what a friend is, all I know is what you're not. . . )
joshthevegan: (woody)

I'm not a machine! )

I'm so damaged. . . )

We've got nothing better to do! )

I don't even care about self destruction anymore )

Who needs love when you got a gun? )

Fuck it, make it a case )

September 2014



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