Bad Brains

Rastafarian Reggae Punkie Jews

(They converted!)

(okay, they didn't really convert)

*special introductory paragraph!
*Black Dots
*Omega Sessions EP
*Bad Brains
*Live At CBGB 1982 DVD
*Rock For Light
*I Against I
*The Youth Are Getting Restless: Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam 1987
*Spirit Electricity Live EP
*God Of Love
*Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco
*I & I Survived (Dub)
*Build A Nation

Everywhere in life, you'll find Nazi Skinheads running around with their awesome suspenders and big ol' boots, proudly moshing and "Sieg Heiling" to rigid, high-speed "hardcore music" - a form of music that leaves all vestiges and remnants of Negro Blues and Jazz behind, concentrating instead only on the white hot heat of the White Man's Anger. Born and bred hardcore White USA!!!

Nope. Hate to tell you, baldies, but hardcore was invented by black people! Four black people as a matter of fact - the Bad Brains. Ask Ian Mackaye. Ask Henry Rollins. They were there: Washington DC 1979, watching in awe as the fastest band in history got faster and faster and faster, influencing every punk rock band in the country to follow suit.

The really interesting thing about the Bad Brains is that, even more so than England's coveted "The Police Band Featuring Stingy," the musicians were actual MUSICIANS. Guitarist Dr. Know (no relation to the band that borrowed his name before joining the Dead Kennedys) was a jazz fusion guitarist, for Heaven's pape! And sure, they slowed down and became much less "good" after their first two or three albums, but they will always get their "props" and "much respect" from hardcore fans young and younger.

Reader Comments
"hardcore was invented by black people!"-- debatable. The first hard core record to many people is the "Out of Vogue" 7" from The Middle Class, who are out of Orange County and had that really fast, Minor Threat/Bad Brains/D.R.I. sound in 1978.

I have it on some cd somewhere, if I find I could send it to you. It's on some Killed by Death comp.
Mark, I'd like to start by saying that I had no idea you ever posted by nausiating response to your call for old horror flicks in your Beastie Boys section, and as such, you will be hearing from my lawers. Not that you are in trouble or anything, because you aren't; I just told those guys about your site, and they thought it was a scream, what with the white screen and black text and all. They intend to send reader comments, I hear. Just so you know.

But all seriousness aside, I'd like to say that the guy who said that your claim that black people inventing hardcore was debatable is rather debatable in of itself. While yes, The Middle Class' "Out Of Vogue" song was certaintly proto-hardcore music if there ever was such, the fact of the matter is that the band was and pretty much remained an obscire one, and it wasn't like the whole hardcore network sprung up in response to that bands 7" (or whatever format it was). The astetics may have been in place with that band (or more so, that song's) sound, but it didn't really inspire or "ceate" hardcore music; as it was for the time, it just remained a fast, monotonous little piece of music within the larger late 70s California punk scene. The Bad Brains were truley the first band to not only play the music fast, but INSPIRE kids to do the same, resulting in what ultimetly came to be known as hardcore music. \

I wouldn't call The Bad Brains responsible for the entire hardcore astetic, however, they merely introduced speed to the game. If its of any interest to anybody, I think these were the "key ingredients" to what would ultimetly make up that hardcore astetic:

Black Flag - Introduced the "die-hard" attitude, and immedietly created an astetic distance between what this "next generation" of bands would be doing, and the fey artiness of the previous punk generation.

Bad Brains - Brought the element of high speed into the music.

Minor Threat - Translated that speed into an astetic that could be imitated and adapted by others. Not everybody was an ex-jazz fusion guitarist, but if you could play Minor Threat, you could basically play hardcore...and as such, Minor Threats style became probably the most aped amongst any of hardcore's "founders".

So that's my two cents on the issue. And with those three bands mentioned, I'd like to note that of COURSE there were other, important founding hardcore groups such as the Dead Kennedys and D.O.A. (who aren't very good, but toured a lot), but I believe the three bands above brought in elements which are nowadays considered inseperable from the genre today. Now when you get around to those They Might Be Giants reviews, could you please review them in the right spot? And could you not give Flood the ten? Or if you give Flood the ten, could you tell me in advance why the FUCK everybody thinks that album is so tops?

(And thus concludes my stirring hardcore analysis. Keep up the good work Prindle, and have a nice day.)
Hey Mark. I contacted you before about Bad Brains not being the very first hard core punk band. In terms of "hard core" being exactly the type of music that's derived from the Minor Threat/Bad Brains/ D.R.I. hyper fast, thrash punk that makes people slam dance in a circle, this link right here is to the very first record that ever sounded like that:

The first Middle class 7" came out in 1978 back when people thought the Ramones and the Clash were the fastest bands on the planet.

On some of the stuff you said earlier about the Stooges having the first hard core records, really "I Got a Right" isn't very fast. It's got that kinda up beat drumming but the actual music the beat supports isn't that fast. It's as fast as some BOC song I believe. Oh and, have you heard the Modern Lovers' first album on cd? the bonus track, "I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms" is a direct rip off of "I Got a Right", replacing Iggy's firey vocals with the laid back sound of Jonathan Richman.
Gotta agree with the “black people invented hardcore” statement. What’s hardcore if not aggressive and fast punk? And punk is just rock and roll, which is a happier sounding version of the blues. As KRS ONE said “black people invented every type of music you hear today.”

Black Dots - Caroline 1996
Rating = 8

When I first read of the impending release of Black Dots, I must admit I was skeptical. Sure, Tropical Dots and Wild Berry Dots were still flying off the shelves like so much baked paper, but considering the dismal failure of the Hot Dots cinnamon experiment, I felt sure that the gumdrop division of Tootsie Roll Industries would shy away from such a controversial non-fruit flavor as licorice. Luckily it turned out to be a CD of early Bad Brains demos.

If you've never heard the early Bad Brains music, please do let me try to describe it for you. Guitarist Gary "Dr. Know (Hilarious Parody of the Debut James Bond Movie Title Dr. No)" Miller has a metallic tone and penchant for soloing, but plays so many speedy bar chords that it sounds like punk rock anyway. Drummer Earl Hudson plays a hundred billion miles an hour, but always in an interesting pattern with clever, difficult breaks, as if the typical 'doop-chick' punk beat is too simple to hold his interest. Bassist Darryl Jennifer certainly seems to play the bass perfectly well, especially during the otherwise boring reggae tracks. And I've been trying to figure out how to describe Paul "Ras Hailu Gabriel Joseph I" D. "H.R." Hudson's voice for days now. See, at times he sounds like a man with an idiosyncratic, soulful voice singing a song, but other times he sounds like an insane dwarf midget baby screaming and bawling at you from a crib made of nails and battery acid. By the way, if you're interested in a crib made of nails and battery acid, be sure to click on the ad at the bottom of this page. Also, the Beach Boys sound a lot better if you listen to them in a timeshare beach house. And don't even get me STARTED about waving a country's flag while listening to Black Flag! I mean, holy fucking BALLS!

Although just a demo recording that sat unreleased for decades and a year, Black Dots is a phenomenal look at the band's early momentum, during the period when they were playing quickly but not nearly as manically speedily as their first two albums as released. The strangest thing is that the bass is mixed as loudly as the (what I believe to be) two guitar tracks -- to the point where at times you can't even tell which is which! And this from a band that was formed by the goshdarn lead guitarist!? Who buried him in the background? Was it an untrained producer? And who buried him in the backyard? Was it a serial killer?

Unlike many other demo collections you might find in today's active demolitions marketplace, Black Dots is a must-own because hidden among these early run-throughs of classic material like "How Low Can A Punk Get?" and "Pay To Cum" are many, many rare and unreleased compositions. This otherwise unreleased material includes:

-- Some awrsome headbang speedpunkers, including "You're A Migraine," the astonishingly speedy title track, and the jokey "Just Another Damn Song" (featuring the touching HR ad lib "Aw, I'm gettin' tired!")

-- A bit of evil Iron Maideny NWOBHM ("At The Atlantis," "Send You No Flowers")

-- One of the band's rare 'actually halfway decent' reggae compositions, "The Man Won't Annoy Ya"

-- The sweet 60s soul shot "Why'd You Have To Go?," which is both atypical of the band and a really, really shitty song

-- What certainly sounds like a Sex Pistols stylistic parody entitled "Redbone In The City." HR even rolls his R's! (and by "R's," I mean "marijuana")

The remaining 8 songs were later reworked at speedier tempos for later records, but look at that - 8 rare songs for all you Bad Brains fans out there. And most of them are GOOD! Plus the recording has a very clean, bright sound (surprising for a long-forgotten demo of this vintage) and it's neat how the guitar (bass?) seems to keep falling just slightly out of tune in a disorienting, wobbly and unique way that may just be an audio illusion created by all the turtle wax sloshing back and forth through my ear canal. Or should I say, my "EAR-Y (Erie) CANAL!" HA HA! NO WAIT! I'VE GOT ANOTHER ONE!!! Maybe I should say my "LAKE EAR-Y (Erie)!!!!" HA AHAHAHH!!!!!!! NO HANG ON!!! It would be even hilariouser if I were to say my "EAR (ear)!!!!"

Say! Did I ever tell you about the time I crapped in my bathing suit at Best Friend Park? I may have, but it's always worth repeating. I was a young lad enjoying a fine day at the pool with my family when a sudden burst of coagulating stinkybrown started queasing through my midsection. I hurried like a light-footed nature deer to the men's room, entered a Stall of Love, and was horrified to find my bathing suit string all wet and knotted. Unable to contain my waste and lacking the common sense to simply pull the bathing suit over to one side and move my bowel through its leg hole, I instead sat in shame and stench, diarrheaing all over my handy trunks. Adding additional insult to insult, I then noticed that this Stall of Love lacked even a shred of toilet tissue! After about 10 minutes, a gentle black man heard my weeping and smelled my aroma, and asked if he might be of assistance. I remember my response as clear as if it were yesterday's daydream: "I pooped in my pants and there's no toilet paper in here!" And this brave man went to the front desk and brought me the papery cleaning agent so demanded by my chastised undercheeks and groin. Little good it did though, what with diarrhea tending to stick around for the duration of any given event. Eventually my brother came in to check on me, and reported the good news back to my anger-prone father, who called me all sorts and sundry of ill names as he untied my Poop Shorts, washed them out in the commodity, and sent me back to the pool, where I undoubtedly stank for the rest of the afternoon.

Say! Did I ever tell you about the time I got in trouble at school for peeing in the sink? Talk about your misha

Reader Comments

I haven't heard this album at all, nor have I heard any Bad Brains. I'm just emailing to notify you that you actually already did in fact post that bathing-suit shit story in your review of Sparks' "Interior Design." But, it's hilarious and it's alright that you posted it again.
I was a bit skeptical as well being an old demo, but this is a great album. Read the liner notes, it said it was recorded in a house with different band members in different areas of the house, I think it said that HR was in the yard, that’s why you can hear that little kid talking between a couple of the songs.
The black dots are for Halloween and are actually orange flavored, I suppose because pumpkins are orange? I may have preferred licorice anyway.

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Omega Sessions EP - Victory 1997
Rating = 6

This EP features 5 demo tracks recorded in 1980 -- two awesome hardcorers (one later re-recorded for Bad Brains, both later re-recorded for Rock For Light), one endless peaceful reggae bore (later re-recorded for Bad Brains), one interesting reggae/soul/metal hybrid called "Stay Close To Me" (available in a different version on the "Pay To Cum" single, but never released on LP) and -- SIX YEARS EARLY -- "I Against I"!?! What the hell were they doing with "I Against I" in their catalog before they'd even recorded their debut cassette!? Here the whole world is hearing it in 1986 and thinking, "Whoa! The formerly hardcore Bad Brains have moved on to a cutting-edge merging of metal, punk and funk, forging the way for such genre-splicing bands as the wonderful Jane's Addiction and not any good at all Red Hot Chili Peppers" when the damned thing had actually been purposely rejected from both Bad Brains and Rock For Light! It was a two-time outtake!!! I guess it's true what Foghat once sang: "The first time I was a fool/I never knew that love (i.e. the song "I Against I") could be so cruel/It happened to me again/Third time lucky."

No matter how great a band is at any given point in its career, the strength of a particular release is going to depend entirely upon the specific songs that they decide to put on it. And though their performances here are typically expert and the mix is plenty raw and mean, the nincompoops decided to waste 40% of their debut studio session on "I Luv I Jah"! Don't get me wrong. I certainly luv I Jah too - she's probably the best wife David Bowie's ever had - but to waste a full six and a half minutes on her when you've got monster hardcore stompers like "How Low Can A Punk Get," "Supertouch" and "Pay To Cum" in your Arsenal Literally Filled With Weapons just seems a mite trite, alright? Kite! Too tight! Fight?

That was awesome how we got in a fight because your kite was too tight. But I guess it's true what Diesel once sang: "We left for Frisco in your Rambler/The radiator running dry/I've never been much of a gambler/And had a preference to fly."

Yes, I guess it's true what John Stewart once sang: "When the lights go down in the California town/People are in for the evening/Jump into my car and I throw in my guitar/Something something I took a dump in my hand and threw it at the dog something."

Yes, it's unfortunate when you can't remember the words to a favorite chestnut of Olden Times, but I guess it's true what Mason Williams once sang: "Classical gas/Hey! Classical gas/Suck on my ass/It's classical gas/(*fart solo*)/Oops my bad - it's intestinal gas"

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Bad Brains - ROIR 1982
Rating = 8

Conjugate my verb! Now baby,
Conjugate my verb!
Walk around town and upside down
and Conjugate my verb!

Yes, sometimes in life we all must use a bit of sexual innuendo that doesn't make any sense, but you know women. Can't live with 'em -- after they throw you out for fuckin' their sister! But the important thing in all this is that the Bad Brains are Rastafarians. What does this mean to you, the consumer? Well, you're in luck because not one hour ago I happened upon a Lester Bangs paragraph about this very exact subject, which I will reprint for you now. (Be advised that it provides little insight into why HR is a complete nutcase.)

"The Rastafarians believe that Marcus Garvey, father of the Back To Africa movement, was a prophet who foresaw the coming of Jah, the Savior also promised in the Bible, a Savior who would lead all oppressed black people to their Promised Land. Garvey said the Savior was coming in 1927, and in 1930 Haile Selassie was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia, becoming the first black head of a 20th Century African state. Ergo, the Rastas believe that Selassie, who was born Ras Tafari and ruled Ethiopia till his death in the Seventies, was (is) Jah; and that soon he will return to bring the Rastas, who believe themselves to be the lost tribe of Israel, home to Ethiopia a.k.a. Zion. In the meantime, while they await Armageddon as prophesied in the Bibles they read daily, they'll have nothing to do with Babylon, the present system of things - they do not vote, instead espousing pacifism, anti-materialism, growing their hair out in long, wild, bushy patches called dreadlocks, and the smoking of lots of herb a.k.a. ganja a.k.a. weed/tokes/dope to us, which they believe to be a mystical sacrament of Jah. Soon, through the combined forces of Jah and higher herb consciousness, Armageddon will come in the form of a mystical revolution which will topple Babylon and set all Jah's children free to return to Paradise."

That paragraph sums up about 95% of the Bad Brains' lyrical concerns. Here, let's look at a few examples from this very album!

- ANTI-MATERIALISM -- "Don't Need It": "Don't need no Ivory liquid/Don't want no Afro Sheen/Don't need the latest fashions/Don't want my hair to smell clean"

- ARMAGEDDON -- "Shitfit": "Everybody's livin and nobody's givin/And nobody gives a damn/You must understand me, the end is surely comin/prepare for the final plan."

- EITHER THE MYSTICAL REVOLUTION, THE RETURN TO ZION, OR BOTH -- "Big Takeover": "All throughout this so-called nation/Prepare yourself for the final quest/Your world is doomed with our own integration/Just another Nazi test."

- ANTI-MATERIALISM, AGAIN -- "Fearless Vampire Killers": "The bourgeoisie had better watch out for me/All throughout this so-called nation/We don't want your filthy money!"

- ANTI-MATERIALISM A THIRD TIME, BUT ALSO ARMAGEDDON AND THE MYSTICAL REVOLUTION -- "Pay To Cum": "I came to know with dismay/That in this world we all must pay/Pay to write, pay to play/Pay to cum, pay to fight....Not long ago when things were slow/We all got by with what we know/The end is near/Hearts filled with fear/Don't want to listen to what they hear/And so it's now we choose to fight/To stick up for our bloody right"

- BABYLON -- "Leaving Babylon": "Say! I'm leaving this Babylon."

- JAH, JUST IN GENERAL -- "Jah Calling": (instrumental)

- THE WHOLE GODDAMNED PARAGRAPH -- "I Luv I Jah": "Walking down Babylon Lane, etc...."

As for all their "I and I" crap, the great scholar Wikipedia tells us that "one of the most distinctive modifications in (Rastafari speech) is the substitution of the pronoun 'I-and-I' for other pronouns, usually the first person. 'I' refers to Jah; therefore, 'I-and-I' in the first person includes the presence of the divine within the individual. As 'I-and-I' can also refer to 'us,' 'them,' or even 'you,' it is used as a practical linguistic rejection of the separation of the individual from the larger Rastafari community, and Jah himself."

Thus we get brilliant interview exchanges like this (from Suburban Voice 1987, as quoted on Kill From The Heart Online):

SV: What made you decide to record "Sacred Love" over the phone?

HR: I and I record "Sacred Love" through the suggestion of a producer, Ron St. Germain, who produced I Against I. After I man's second month of incarceration, this man asked I and I if I'd be into it, so I and I say yeah. I really didn't have much to lose being in I man's position. So when I heard about it, I was a little odd, a little astounded. However, I love to sing, in jail, out of jail, it don't matter.

But enough about the goddamned lyrics! Who listens to music for the lyrics? Probably some tin-eared tonedeaf ASSHOLE with shit up his ass! Probably some piss-filled dick-owning jackass with sperm in his balls! Probably some sweating-when-he's-hot jerkoff who vomits when he gets food poisoning, and releases diarrhea from his backside if he gets the stomach flu! And what's that up his nose? Probably MUCOUS and LITTLE HAIRS!!!!

The Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch (well, they call him Adam Yauch, but he's MCA) once referred to Bad Brains as "the greatest hardcore album ever made." Then he caught the Bubonic Plague from a deer tick.

Named after the Ramones song "Pet Sematary," the Bad Brains rolled out of the United States' fabled District of Columbia in 1979 with hair on their heads and speed in their souls. Then they got banned everywhere and moved to New York City. Then HR started beating everybody up and missing shows. Then they became fag-bashers and stole a bunch of pot from MDC and/or The Dicks. At some point either before or after all of these amazing incidents, they released a cassette tape called Bad Brains, which I am going to review for you in a few minutes.

Bad Brains has that classic hardcore punk sound down -- the bass and fuzzed-out guitar all crammed together playing chords galore, drums speedily kicking ass, singer just doin' he thang. There's still a bit of metal and reggae in the mix, but the overriding tone and content is definitely that of punk rock and hardcore. And let's be honest - that's a good thing. You see, I'm a hardcorester. When people see me walking down the street with my ass-kicking business casual pants and what would be a mohawk if my bald spot expanded along those lines, they say, "Dude, look at that hardcorester." Then I go "Oi!" and run around in a circle.

There are two things that excite me most in music: (1) new combinations of sounds, (2) fastness. The Bad Brains have #2 covered from the getgo, and even if basic hardcore isn't the best place to look for #1, this band came up with some great, great riffs! And sure, the music may not always seem to fit the lyrics ("Sailin' On" sounds awfully cheery for a song about being dumped, and "Attitude" supports H.R.'s boasts of a 'Positive Mental Attitude' with possibly the most pissed-off chord sequence on the record!), but who cares when your brain is sloshing back and forth inside your skull as you bang your motherfucking head 4500 motherfucking miles a fuckhour?

If you happen to own Black Dots and Rock For Light (both of which you should), then you are only missing 5 Bad Brains tracks -- a tiny 'intro,' three reggae timewasters, and the awesome mean-spirited metal headbanger "I." On the other hand, this remixed CD has a much tougher, meaner production sound than either of those records. So you make the call. But if money's not an issue, buy them all! It's not like you're going to regret owning three different versions of "Banned In D.C." and "Attitude"!

And by "Banned In D.C." and "Attitude," I of course mean "Banned On D.Run." and "Att: Hey Jude," two timeless ballads by Sir Paul McCartney.

Reader Comments
"Reggae Timewasters" I beg to differ Mark. They do a good job of breaking the album up and adding some contour and dimension. The same thing is true of Tony Iommi's instrumentals in Master of Reality. "Leavin Babylon" is a great track in its own right. Still I agree with your overall assessment. The guitar solos almost remind me of John Mclaughlin.
Mark sez:

"Then they became fag-bashers and stole a bunch of pot from MDC and/or The Dicks."

Wrong. The Big Boys are the band who let the Bad Brains stay at their place. Everything was peachy, apparently, and Biscuit Turner got them a lot of pot, and asked them to pay him back. When HR found out that Biscuit was gayer than an April maypole and proud of it, though, instead of paying, he decided to leave a note saying something to the effect of "Burn in hell bummaclot faggot." There was then a huge fight which ended in the Bad Brains leaving.

In retrospect, I think you may have already known that and wrote that to get someone like me to write in like this.

In retrospect, HR is a stupid douche.

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Live At CBGB 1982 DVD - Music Video Distributors 2006
Rating = 8

This DVD features segments from three 1982 Bad Brains shows at NYC's legendary NRBQ-OMGFU club, and these guys KICKED ASSSSE! HR is an absolutely mesmerizing frontman, shaking his body like an ADHD leaf, running and stomping all over the stage, and screaming like a psychotic toddler. Due mostly to the static camerawork, you literally can't take your eyes off him! Also, the drummer plays a jillion miles an hour, the guitarist smiles really big the whole time, and the bassist talks in a (faux?) Jamaican accent. And the crowd is a bunch of moshing baldies!

All you trainspotters, clockwatchers and gobstopper jawbreaker midgets will enjoy noting that, thanks to the band's early habit of re-recording its material over and over again, this DVD includes live renditions of 2 Black Dots/Bad Brains/Rock For Light songs, 3 Bad Brains/Rock For Light, 2 Black Dots/Bad Brains, 1 Black Dots/Rock For Light, 1 Black Dots, 1 Bad Brains, and 6 Rock For Lights, as well as 2 never-released reggae songs (one with guest vocalist White Guy!). Plus, since the material comes from three different shows, some of the songs are performed twice. But who cares when the songs are as awesome as "Big Takeover" and "I"!?!

This band kicked so much hardcore speedball ass in 1982, it's ridiculous. And it's doubly exciting to witness them doing so with your eyes, which it's hard to do on an album. It's also neat how, during the first show, there's a guy at the front of the stage who looks just like Dee Dee Ramone in 1977, and then during the second show, there's a completely different guy at the front who looks just like Dee Dee Ramone in 1980! Good old bowl cuts, and how good they make you look.

Two warnings though: (a) Reggae is boring, and they play like 4 different songs of that genre during the show. One of them gave me a chance to go to the bathroom though, which is nice. Bands like the Ramones didn't have the courtesy to throw a 5-minute pile of echoey crap in the middle of their set, and that's why all their fans smell like urine. (b) The box boasts of "Bonus interviews from 1982." That's a case of telling the truth but not the whole truth. These 'interviews' consist of 2 minutes of punk rock fans talking about why they like slam dancing. There are NO Bad Brains interviews included.

Unless you count the fat dude with the mohawk; his mind doesn't seem to be 'kickin a lot of thinking ass'.

Say, what's that? Why, it looks like a bottle of honey-flavored 84-proof vodka! Maybe I should have a few drinks of that, and then come back and finish this review. After all, drinking makes me write really good!

(*pauses to drink for 7 1/2 hours*)

Indeed, this is quite a fine album. Good show, fine gents!

(*pauses to sleep for 12 hours; awakens refreshed for a brand new day*)


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* Rock For Light - Caroline 1983 *
Rating = 10

17 songs of awesome hardcore, killer punk, furious metal, kickass hard rock and slightly-less-than-vomitous reggae, Rock For Light is the definitive Bad Brains recording. If you want to hear classic high-speed hardcore punk performed with a surprising level of technical proficiency (including some superfast metallic guitar lines and more exciting breaks, shifts and rhythmic patterns than pretty much any other 'old school' hardcore act), Rock For Light is a "Lock For Right! (album to buy)"

The Cars' Ric Ocasek of "Emotion In Motion" fame produced the thing, unfortunately giving it a slightly more trebly, reverbed and diffuse sound than one might like. But trust me - you'd have to record the album in an abandoned mine shaft, with the entire band set on fire, to ruin songs as legendary as mosh classic "Right Brigade," Beastie Boy headbanger "Big Takeover," optimistic fuckoff "Banned In D.C.," teeny light-speed explosion "F.V.K.," 70's-style guitar riffer "Coptic Times," straight-up-your-ass speedcore "Attitude," raucous punk singalong "Sailin' On" and sickeningly strange 9-chord descender "How Low Can A Punk Get?" And that's not even half the album!

As I stated before, alternate recordings of many of these songs can be found on Bad Brains and Black Dots (not to mention Omega Sessions and the four live albums!), but this is where you'll find the highest concentration of classic Bad Brains material in the same place. Nitpickers might naysay, "You know what two key songs are missing? 'I'! 'Pay To Cum'!" But it's not your fault they have to frequent prostitutes, and besides, the three reggae songs on here are darker and more memorable than the three on Bad Brains (aside from the corny "Rally Round Jah Throne," which is nearly horrid enough to make me drop the album grade from a 10 to a 3).

It would have been nice of Ric Ocasek to put a bit more 'oomph' in the mix, but I guess you can't have everything in life. Well, you could, but why would you want things like AIDS and John Ritter's corpse?

Actually no, I don't think "America has been clamoring" for 8 Simple Rules For Catching AIDS From A Corpse.

Reader Comments

Ivica Antunovic
i hate what ric did, a ton of reverb is bad for bad brains. and the whole recording/master is sped up so it sounds kinda silly. i prefer the self titled record.

btw every story involving diarrhea is funny
Ocasek's production makes me think he was trying to create a pop rock album or maybe just trying to make the worst produced rock album he could. The guitar's got a metallic tone but is all shiny and happy sounding, not quite fitting for this music. The bass is drowned out way in the background, which absolutely ruins the solo in "Big Takeover" as well as sucking the power out of the whole album. The lead guitar is the same way, you've got to strain yourself to hear the solos and flashy riffs. Only the drums have any sort of punch to them.

This album marks the turning point when HR decided to stop singing. Compare any songs from the s/t or Black Dots and try to tell me his voice on Rock For Light doesn't rank up there with Axl Rose and Geddy Lee. The s/t tracks on the album also get a bunch of worthless ad lib lyrics just when you though it couldn't get bad enough.

My final beef is, and this is completely inexcusable, whoever remastered the CD reissue fucked it up big time, criminally even. Sure the CD gets 3 extra tracks compared to the vinyl (I know the ass kicking "I" is one of them, but it doesn't kick nearly as much ass with a muppet singing), but all the songs have been sped up by a half step making HR sound like Elmo.

The CD reissue get's a 5/10 from me (7/10 if you have the software to get the correct speed) and that's being generous. How they managed to take a bunch of seriously awesome rock songs and package them in the most unappealing manner is a mystery for the ages.
This is a good album to demonstrate people why "Hardcore" is a genre to love! The Bad Brains are full of energy and on "ROCK FOR LIGHT" present a bunch of fast, catchy and fun songs...I guess they're pretty serious and angry, but it's fun angry stuff.
Favorite songs are the title track, "At the Movies", "Attitude", "Banned in D.C.", "We will Not", "Sailin On", "Right Brigade", "Riot Squad", "Big Takeover", "Coptic Times", which covers almost the whole album. Personally I could do without the reggae stuff. It's okay, because it gives you a break every once in a while. If you don't need breaks - skip stuff like "the meek" or "I and I survive".
You should watch the Brains live on DVD (shitty youtube also features some videos) - although the sound quality is mostly poor and the singers voice is inaudible most of the time, it's cool to see how energetic, young and angry they were back in the early 80s!
I want to thank Mark for the excellenct and fun reviews. The Bad Brains are one more band i discovered through reading your stuff. The whole damn homepage is a masterpiece of it's own in style and content and so full of inspiration in every way. Keep up the good work!
I noticed the other day that, on my MP3 copy of this album, the rerecorded songs are played at a faster tempo and in a higher key than the original recordings. It makes me think that the tape speed was manipulated for the recording/mixing/mastering of this album. Either that, or that my MP3's are screwy.

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I Against I - SST 1986
Rating = 5

Sorry folks, this blows. The moose out front should have told you.

"Wait a second!" you're wondering together at me. "Is Mark Prindle seriously going against all conventional wisdom and calling this legendary masterwork 'mediocre'!?"

You bet I am! Cuz I'm a gonzo take-no-prisoners wordslinger alongalineza legendary skeeze-sleaze-CUM-platter-overpricer Byron Coley! So clean out yr trou (natch) cuzz I'm abowda write some wrongs, right some dongs, and KILL YR IDOLS, Spunky. (*uses a drug*)

This CD SCREAMS "corny mid-80s alt-metal." To be fair, I don't even think alt-metal existed in 1986, so this album probably sounded pretty revolutionary (or at least different) at the time. And its influence can definitely be heard in the works of later alternative metal bands like Jane's Addiction, Faith No More and Living Colour. But my sweet GOD, does it sound dated today.

Just as an aside, I first heard I Against I in 1990 and, although it didn't yet sound antiquated, I still found the songwriting terribly hit-or-miss. So don't be all like thinking I'm being all like "Guy Who Just Heard The Album In Like 2006 And Is Being All Like 'Look How Cool I Am By Being All Like "This Album Sucks" And Shit' Guy."

First of all, they're finished with hardcore. There are a few fast, aggressive numbers on here but they're metallic, not punkkic. Secondly, when I say 'metallic,' I don't mean Thrash or Doom or anything like that: Dr. Know sounds like an Eddie Van Halen disciple now. His guitar tone and solo style are total MTV-metal, with a chorus effect coating the distortion with an emasculating layer of shiny, putrid hair-metal gloss. Thirdish, Ron St. Germain's production is hilarious, pairing the already-humiliating guitar tone with that gigantic gated drum sound that made so many of the era's pop-metal albums sound even worse than they already were.

But all of this wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact.... that the band has replaced its aggressive idiosyncratic thrash-hardcore edge with a cheeseball blend of generic metal riffs, tentative funk and New Romantic melodrama. A few compositions retain the energy and/or manic creativity of Rock For Light -- dark driving punk-metal "House Of Suffering" and weird palm-muted trudger "Re-Ignition" are the best -- but most of the album toes the fence between sluggish Billy Idol cock-rock and failed Duran Duran/David Bowie suave-pop. Now hang on because I'm about to ask you to listen to some things and then tell me some things.

Listen to "Secret 77" and tell me it doesn't belong on a Duran Duran album. Then listen to "Hired Gun" and tell me it doesn't sound like a Van Hagar power ballad with one weird chord. Then try a listen to "Return To Heaven" and tell me it doesn't belong on David Lee Roth's Skyscraper. When you've completed that activity, listen to "She's Calling You" and tell me it doesn't sound like Chris De Burgh has written a guest composition for Cinderella. Finally, listen to the legendary title track and tell me it doesn't sound like a two-time reject outtake comprised of three parts that don't go together at all. Also, HR sings like Prince now. That's not a bad thing, but I figured I'd point it out.

I'm late for home, so I'd better wrap this up. I'm particularly curious to hear YOUR thoughts about this record. Is I Against I still as revered as it used to be? Has the younger generation heard it? What does it sound like to YOU? Look around, we're all PEOPLE! Who needs countries anyway?

The first two sentences of this review were a movie reference. The final two sentences of the preceding paragraph were a lyrical reference. Do you know them? Be the first to identify both sources correctly and I'll send you a FREE Mark Prindle CD-R, by Mark Prindle! Holy shit! That guy sucks and is awesome!

(Don't just google them though, asshole)

Reader Comments
John Candy in Vacation
Jello Biafra in Stars and Stripes of Corruption


My first and only Bad Brains album. Title track, Secret Love, and Return to Heaven are all dandy tunes but besides that it all pretty much bored me... but I havn't listened to it in years so maybe I'd change my tone. (Matthew)
(received before I'd posted the note above)

National Lampoon's Vacation, and Stars and Stripes of Corruption!

And you're right on about I Against I. Not sure how this one got it's iconic status...

Ivica Antunovic
just like you said, the production and songs make this record sound as dated as candlebox and spin doctors, but no one sounded like this in 1986. if unbelievably awful "god of love" was released in 1986. it would be a cult record. would "obscured by clouds" be a cult record if it was released in 1966? or "cut the crap" in 1977?

but i like the songs and i'd give it a 7.
Great to see you review Bad Brains on your site. This is the only album I've heard - back around this time I was buying virtually anything on SST I could get my hands on (Painted Willie, anyone?), but this album never really took off with me. Made me wonder what was the big fuss over Bad Brains, to be honest. Hardcore? Where? I remember "Deep Inside" having a nice brisk tempo, and "House of Suffering" was a standout, but otherwise, it was pretty boring. Even though I knew the early stuff was supposed to be good, the mediocrity of this release deterred me from checking that other stuff out. Thanks for pointing the way to the more worthy releases - I'm pretty psyched now to check out "Rock for Light" and suchlike.
Ah, this must be the Higher Moral Purpose of Mark Prindle: he exists to reach down into the shameful secrets of our inferior souls and set free in a public space those “is there something wrong with me” unfashionable perceptions we have never dared give voice: for instance, that indeed, this album is not very good (Hey, there’s a great name for a band: The Naked Emperors. It’s so good someone must have done it already, no?). I really like the title track of this disc, actually, and I have twice now bought the album and tried to get behind it, and twice concluded that there must be something wrong with me for just not getting it and selling it. (I was recently considering buying it again, even). This is why I read these reviews – to validate the perceptions I didn’t give voice (or occasionally to stimulate perceptions I didn’t actually have). I have not yet scrolled down to read Mr. Prindle’s take on the band’s homophobia, but wasn’t it the Big Boys, not the Dicks, that, along with members o’ MDC, had altercations with HR? Or were key members of the Dicks gay too? (They do have that gloryhole song... hm). If this is so, why are all the best hardcore bands from Texas so darn gay, anyhow? Is it something about Texas that makes punks go gay, or is it something about Texas that makes gays go punk? (I am somehow fonder of the latter theory; why?).
i totally agree with your review. I bought this in 86 when it first came out and loved the shit out of it, back then it was a totally new sound. this has not held up well though. I listened to it about a year ago and was like "what did I ever see in this?" kind of like the Exploited's first album. like" what was I thinking?" nothing, I guess. the songs all sound slow and boring, and even though they may have been first, i am so sick of mid-tempo metally crap. BTW Jane's Addiction sounds like crap now too, but I used to love their first album, why?
I against I would just like to say I against I agree with you against you wholeheartedly about this album. I first heard the Bad Brains "Pay to Cum" many years ago when I was a mere lad and thought "this band is as awesome as everyone says." Then I found the album "I Against I" used and purchased it, very excitedly. Then I proceeded to listen to and wonder why the hell anyone liked this band at all because it sucked royally. Later I managed to procure some early Bad Brains and found they were in fact as awesome as everyone says. Even later, much later in fact, I was discussing the Bad Brains with a friend and another friend chimed in and said he wanted to hear what we were talking about because the only BB album he owned was "I Against I" and upon listening to it he had wondered "Why does everyone like this?" In short it's a horrible album and definitely an ill-representation of what made the Bad Brains great and I'm glad someone had the semen-filled testicles to finally say it to the world.
In the movie American Hardcore they say that the hardcore scene died in 1986. While it's true that Black Flag (and tons of other bands I'm sure) broke up that year, it's more accurate to say that the style of music changed, and this album was a big part of that. Hardcore slowed down and started sounding more like heavy metal.

This album became the blueprint for modern hardcore. The problem is that - while the songs are mostly excellent - the production is downright atrocious. Maybe Ron St. Germaine was way into the new Van Hagar album - or maybe Dr. Know suddenly thought he was Eddie Van Halen. Either way the guitar sound on this album is a trebly, headachy nightmare. Who gave him that tremelo bar? It's interesting how there are NO guitar overdubs on the entire album, but who cares when the one guitar they DID record sounds so crappy? And speaking of John Candy (as you mention in your review), the drums sound like they were recorded by the guy that made the Armed and Dangerous soundtrack. Reverbed to hell and with no punch at all. The bass tone also isn't very bassy. Bad, bad, bad.

The songs though are mostly well-written, and extremely innovative. While I agree about "Secret 77" sounding like Duran Duran, I can't think of anything from that time that sounds remotely like "Re-Ignition", "Sacred Love" or even "Return to Heaven". There's nothing consistently as fast as the faster stuff on their previous two albums and no reggae; but most of the songs sound like a fusion of the two, with an emphasis on the former. The slower tempos end up working out extremely well for H.R. His melodies soar on this album and he comes up with some interesting wordplay (for example "overstand" instead of "understand"). It's also the last Bad Brains album where H.R.'s lyrics make any sense whatsoever.

Most of these songs are played and recorded better on The Youth Are Getting Restless anyway.

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Live - SST 1988
Rating = 8

This one was recorded live. Furthermore, (*conducts remainder of review orally*)

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The Youth Are Getting Restless: Live At The Paradiso, Amsterdam 1987 - Caroline 1990
Rating = 9

You know how in my review of Live, I kept talking about how the album features live renditions of 6 I Against I songs, 5 from Rock For Light, and 2 available only on Bad Brains, and how I wouldn't shut up about the fact that it has that shiny orangey chorused guitar wash and reverbed booming drum sound that has ruined so many other ostensibly 'punk rock' live albums, and how I spent 25 minutes raving about the great set list because they play the 3 IAI songs I love and skip the 3 I hate, and how I concluded with a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating that even though the orangey reverbed big-concert sound sucks all the aggression and heaviness out of the material, the songs themselves are still so fantastic that it makes up for it? Well, The Youth Are Getting Restless is another live album from the same tour. Also, (*falls into manhole*)

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Spirit Electricity Live EP - SST 1991
Rating = 6

Isn't it awesome to be hilarious? To pretend that you've recited a review ORALLY rather than writing it down, when in fact you've simply passed out drunk? And then rather than reviewing an album in its correct place, pretend to fall in a manhole so you can continue the uproarious pattern of reviewing each album in the wrong place? Yes, it's great to be hilarious. But that's enough laughing. Now it's time to sit down, get serious and write a sober, stone-faced review of The Youth Are Getting Restless, here in the Spirit Electricity section.

The Youth Are Getting Restless kicks SO much fart-fuckin' ass it's ridiculous. Even though it was indeed the same tour as the slicked-up ball-free Live and Spirit Electricity releases (the latter to be discussed at tremendous length later on, in the Quickness section), the band for this one night in Amsterdam turned off the chorus, cranked up the angry distortion, and bashed the absolute SHIT out of their hardcore and metal material, even managing to staple some testicles onto four I Against I tracks (the three I already loved, along with the previously horrible but now hardcoriffic "Let Me Help"). Seriously, this disc is so much tougher, stronger, meaner and punkier than Live, it's a complete mystery how it could have been recorded on the same tour. The raw gritty guitar does break out into Van Haleny solos during the IAI songs, but not to anybody's detriment.

Understand that I'm not saying it's a heavy record. It's actually pretty damn trebly, but it's a vicious screaming distorted racket of noise that gives off the manic feel of a sweaty moshing hardcore show, as opposed to the sheen/clean pop-metal live sound of Live. Had Dr. Know misplaced his chorus pedal? Who knows? Why cares?

So TYAGR: LATP, A1 breaks down like this: 4 I Against I, 8 Rock For Light, 2 available only on Bad Brains, and 3 brand new rare unreleased unavailable reggae songs (2 covers and the terrific dark, bitter title track). 7 of the 17 songs were already featured on Live, but in less bum-hoolering renditions. Every single song both sounds and is great (they're great songs, performed great, and recorded great) except for one idea that finally answers the age-old question, "If one were to perform a reggae medley of 'Day Tripper' and 'She's A Rainbow' with almost no lyrical or melodic reference to the original versions, that would be really awful, wouldn't it?"

And that's all I have to say about the slamdancingly good live Bad Brains album The Youth Are Getting Restless. Now we can finally discuss Spirit Electricity Live, an EP recorded on the same tour as TYAGR: LATP, A1 and L, but containing only 6 songs, four of which were already present (from a different live date) on The Youth...................7. The most important thing to note about this record is that (*accidentally poops out entire skeleton; flops splooshily onto floor*)

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Quickness - Caroline 1989
Rating = 5

It's great that we all came out here today to talk about the Bad Brains' Quickness
precursor, Spirit Electricity Live.

But first, a joke I just made up:

Q: How many O's does it take to change "POPCORN" to "POOPCORN"?

A: TWO! Your mouth and your ass!!

Yes, jokes are a good time but we're only here for one reason, so let's talk about the Bad Brains' Rise album.

Don't buy Rise. It's not the Bad Brains. It's Dr. Know and Nurse Darryl trying to cash in on the grunge revolution in spite of the Hudson Brothers' disinterest. And sure, "So You Are A Star" is a great song, but there were many other bands that did the post-Beatles thing a lot b spite of Earl and HR's disinterest. Their solution? Make Mackie the full-time drummer and hire a guy with an Afro to replace HR, since he had a really generic voice and nobody would miss him anyway. The result, unsurprisingly, is a terrible album. Released in 1993 by small indie label "Sony," Rise quickly fell (in a hilarious pun I just made) to the bottom of everybody's list of favorite Bad Brains albums.

Rise is bland, personality-free major-label early-90s metal at its most hookless. It could be anybody playing these songs; the only aspect connecting it to the Bad Brains proper is the vocalist's funny made-up name "Israel Joseph-I" -- a sneaky attempt to trick fans into thinking it's HR (who was billed as "Joseph I" on the back cover of Rock For Light). Unfortunately, THIS "Joseph-I" has a dull voice and noticeable lack of skill in the 'coming up with vocal melodies that don't sound like somebody shat all over them' department. His lyrics are much less abstract and Rasta-obsessed than HR's, and it's nice that he's so intent on offering positive advice to young people, but lest ye forget that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Not that Israel Joseph-I is going to Hell. That would be like telling a workman who paves a road to Cleveland that he has to live there for the rest of Eternity. And that's no way to run a road crew. The union would be all over your ass. And not just because the union likes anal sex, but because they'd be mad about your decree.

Incidentally, congratulations on getting your decree. Northwestern is a fine school, and you'll go far with a BS like that. Speaking of "BS," somebody should have called "HR" and asked them to hire a better vocalist than this jerk! But he's still not going to Hell, according to God. So that's something to look forward to.

Drab Power Chords and Funk-Metal with a few slight dollops of Ugly Thrash, Generic Reggae and Queasy Soul-Pop: that's your Rise in a nutshirt. The title track's riff is stolen from Metallica, the single is a Graham Central Station cover, and the only great song has the same name as an old Paul Rodgers band. Yes, "The Firm" certainly has a great riff but

Yes, "Bad Company" certainly does include the lyric "Company, always on the run" but

Yes, "Paul Rodgers & Queen" is indeed a weird, bubbly, blurbly, dark, sad-to-sick little piece that would have fit in perfectly on either of the preceding albums, but the other 11 songs range from depressing to somnambulant. There's the occasional cry for help from a neat chord sequence trying to escape the faceless, perfectly mixed bag of emptiness, but nobody hears it. It just sits there in weepertons as the faux-band plods away. Rise? More like RIPE (PILE OF HORSESHIT) if you ask me!!!!

Sorry if I didn't say much about how the album actually sounds -- there's just not much to say! Go pick up any failed major label 'grunge' release from the mid-90s, mentally replace the Eddie Vedder imitator with a boring black guy, and there's your Rise. It's not worth hearing, and has been long forgotten amidst the sands of dusk.

So let's get to the reason we came to the Quickness review in the first place -- to talk about Spirit Electricity Live! Okay, the first thing to note is that, regardl (*loses both hands in fist-fucking accident*)

Reader Comments
A Quickness comment --

Yay! At last after nagging you for years there's finally a Bad Brains page! if Rock for Light is your favorite, you might like the "premastered" version. See, PVC put the record out in 1983, and it eventually (I think) went out of print. When Bad Brains were on Caroline they re-mastered Rock for Light - turning the treble in the mix up to 11, adding some weird reverb, and (worst of all) SPEEDING UP THE RECORDING. Yep, it's a half-step too high. Anyway on to the Quickness comment.

Rise sunk, and once again the Bad Brains were left without a label. Then I guess some time in 94/95, Madonna offered them an enormous sum of money to be on her vanity label Maverick. Two problems: (1) by this time, the well had run pretty much dry in the riff department and (2) H.R. - while never exactly a case study in "sanity" - had completely lost his mind. The album gets off to an extremely strong start with "Cool Mountaineers" - H.R. adds a new dimension to his vocals by harmonizing during the verses and multi-tracking some jibber jabber over the choruses (which works for this song, but not so much on the other like 7 songs he does this on). Dr. Know actually lets the power chords ring out - which ties the vocals together with the ass-kicking that the bass and the drums are laying down. "Justice Keepers" is another winner, and the riffs are so powerful you barely notice that there's only like 2 of them in the whole song. After that it's more or less a wash... over-done/synthetic sounding reggae, cookie-cutter muted power chord I Against I outtakes, and directionless thrash. "Tongue Tee Tie" has a decent guitar triplet stutter and interesting vocal harmonies, but that's about it. "Thank Jah" sounds like it took more time to record than it did to write, and was H.R. being ironic about "keeping the music pure" underneath all those fake-ass sounds in "Big Fun"? The title track sounds half-baked - as opposed to H.R. who seems 100% baked and just seems to be making up random words in it as he goes along. The lyric sheet is very revealing, with half the songs ending with "etc. etc." It almost makes you wish for Mackie and Joseph I (or whatever his name is) back.

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Rise - Epic 1993
Rating = 3

Haven't heard this one.

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God Of Love - Maverick 1995
Rating = 3

Hi, I'm Brad Bains and I'd like to thank Mark Prindle, founder of online sporting goods retailer, for giving me the opportunity to set a few things straight about my 1995 album God Of Love.

First of all, I don't know who the black people are in the CD booklet. I would never have signed off on such misleading artwork, but I was out of town at the time and my fax machine got a paper jam.

Secondly, I am still to this day absolutely furious about the typo on the cover. I spent nearly an hour with the label's graphic artist, giving precise details about the unique "letters all curvy and stuck together like they're cursive, yet they're not actually cursive" font I wanted to use, but I guess I didn't adequately stress that the 'r' is in my FIRST NAME. Sure, one would have thought it obvious since most mothers don't look at their newborn babies and think "You know what? I hate this baby! As such, I think I'll name it 'BAD'!" but it's not like I'm going to argue with a drug-addled trust fund baby related to the CEO.

Thirdly, and most importantly, my producer (one Rick Ocasek) decided to do some 'sweetening' of the tracks behind my back. I know my timing isn't always precise and on occasion my falsetto D-sharp falls a mite flat, but how do you think I felt when the CD came out and all my unique mandolinwork and Celtic brogue vocal stylings had been replaced by reggae and pisspoor shit-metal? I thought the guy had credentials because he sang for The Knack or whoever, but he didn't know producing from his asshole!

In conclusion, God Of Love as originally envisioned by me, Brad Bains, was an inspirational combination of traditional Irish folk music and grindcore, with lyrics that combined the whimsy of Keats with the tense dramatic thrust of Scarry. God Of Love as released, on the other hand, is a reunion of the original Bad Brains line-up that shows Rise to have been not a fluke at all but an accurate representation of aging, bone-dry songwriters incapable of churning out anything but the most fundamental funk-metal and half-assed reggae. The hardcore-tinged "Cool Mountaineer" is a terrific opener, and its jazzy/metallic follow-up "Justice Keepers" is promising as well, but after that it's just a bunch of spittoon juice in a poop barrel. A bit of rap, a touch of alt-rock hippy balladry, and gallons upon gallons of choppy slow hookless metal and straightforward Jamaican Rasta Reggae (or, as my mother pronounces it, "Redge-eye") -- five reggae songs out of twelve, as a matter of fact. And not even good reggae like "The Youth Are Getting Restless" or "I And I Survive," but bad reggae like every single other reggae song ever recorded by anybody.

Yes, it's great to make blanket statements based on a record collection with exactly three reggae albums in it (two of which are actually quite good), but that's why they call me "Brad Bains"! (and not "Mark Prindle," who is an entirely different person)

Also, foreigners have stupid customs and women are cheap whiny assholes. Thanks for listening! And I'm Brad Bains!

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Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco - 2b1 II 2002
Rating = 7

Recorded during a brief period when the reunited band was going by the name 'Soul Brains', this live album features performances of 7 old hardcore-era tunes, 4 from I Against I, 2 you previously heard on Youth Restless Live, 1 new one, 1 from God Of Love and 1 from Quickness. Quickness was the heavy metal follow-up to 1986's I Against I.

Although produced by the self-same self-made shell-fish as its predecessor, Quickness sounds much heavier and replaces the sexy David Bowie lite-funk with thick metal chords, thrash, punk, sludge, funk-metal and weird midtempo fuzz-rock. HR alternates between his screechy yelling and Princelike singing, bibble-bobbling almost exclusively about Rastafari subject matter. And Dr. Know plays all his guitar solos through a delay effect like Eddie Van Halen might do. Unfortunately, the album starts strong (with 4 great songs in the first 5!), then suddenly takes a Nosedive Of Quality into the ugliest bunch of riffs in Black Metal history (with 0 good songs in the last 7!).

"W'happen?" Aside from the awkward hip-hop title track, the stuff near the beginning of Quickness is as sick, creative and mean as anything they've ever done! Then it's like they got toastered halfway through and forgot that songs are supposed to be pleasurable in some way. The dumb homophobic punk-metal "Don't Blow Bubbles" ("Don't blow no fudge buns"!?), the noxious up-down-up-down thrasher "Sheba," rotten palm-muted up-down-up-down funk-metal "Yout' Juice," fucking AWFUL two-chord funk-chant-metal "No Conditions," and I'll have to stop there until I think of more synonyms for 'vomitous'. This is simply bad songwriting - riffs that make you go, "Say, that's ugly and boring!" Usually in life you have to make a choice between ugly and boring, but the Bad Brains have found a way to combine these two great tastes in one candy bar album!

I have a theory about what happened to Bad Brains though. Actually, it's a three-part theory: (A) The band was already splintering apart, as evidenced by the liner notes' listing of Earl Hudson as drummer followed immediately by the statement "DRUMS ON ALL SELECTIONS - MACKIE", (B) Dr. Know simultaneously ran out of melodic ideas and became a fan of bad heavy metal, (C) H.R. smoked his brain into a torpor. It's really too bad, because if they'd managed to write another four or five songs as intellectually stimulating as the first few tracks, Quickness would have been hailed as a major-league comeback after the sissy-balled legendary classic I Against I, which has sold more copies than any other Bad Brains album and is still hailed as one of the finest masterpieces in alternative rock history.

Also, "Don't Bother Me" is an old punk song from their earliest days! They really stunk it up on here though; the original version is better. Now then, let's sit back and talk about the Soul Brains disc. First of all, it's obvious to (*is bitten by tsetse fly*)

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I & I Survived (Dub) - Reggae Lounge 2002
Rating = 4

I usually don't like to review second-generation copies of albums, but according to the title this CD is only available as a tape dub, so I'll make an exception.

Say, that reminds me of something interesting about Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco. You know how people get older when they age? Well, that unique phenomenon seems to have finally happened to Mr. HR. No longer the sprightly, hyperactive hardcore child who squealed and screamed "HOW LOW -- CAN A PUNK GET? AH! AH! AH! AH! AH! AH! AH!," Mr. HR has herein chosen to refrain from shredding his throat on behalf of music that he probably doesn't even like anymore. (Have you heard his solo albums? I have one, and it's REGGAE!) Unfortunately, hardcore being what hardcore is, some of the early tracks never had vocal melodies to begin with -- HR tries to compromise by creating simple little melodies when possible (for example, he now sings the mosh section of "RIGHT BRIGAAAAAAAAAAAAAADE!"), but much of the time he's forced to replace his former shrieks with simple speaking of the lyrics, which clashes with the intense speedcore playing of his band. That said, it's nice to finally hear him having a good time on a live album, talking and joking with the audience between songs. (assuming it's him - it sounds like him anyway)

Dub music is instrumental reggae but with occasional echo/repeat effects on the percussive elements, along with a handful of vocal samples. Examples of this traditional Jamaican music can be found on such Rastafari releases as The Clash's Sandinista and The Clash's Super Black Market Clash. And it's probably a perfectly enjoyable form of cool-down music if you're a weed-eating pink-eye, but to me it just sounds like unfinished music -- particularly since most reggae songs only have like one part to begin with. So I & I Survived (Dub) is three members of the Bad Brains (no HR) along with pals on trumpet, saxophone, melodica and extra-guitar, performing a selection of 12 reggae songs that sound half-written.

That last thought brings to mind something quite intriguing about Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco. New listeners probably shouldn't start here because they'll come away with an inaccurate impresson of HR's vocal power and range. They'll also be subjected to the abominable new funk-metal boner "On Like Popcorn," which HR sings like Anthony Kiedis (i.e. poorly).

A few of the songs on I & I Survived (Dub) are reworkings of older Bad Brains tracks -- specifically "How Low Can A Punk Get," "I & I Survive," "Gene Machine" and "Rally Around Jah Throne." The others are new compositions. Even I, Mr. Anti-Dub, must admit that some of the parts are honestly pretty clever and neat-sounding: "Ragga Dub" is all Easterny-tinged like George Harrison got ahold of it in 1967, "Gene Machine" unexpectedly blasts into hardcore punk at the end, "Cowboy" pastes twangy guitar picking and spaghetti western minor chords on top of dubby Island beats, and "How Low Can A Punk Get" begins with an awesomely weird thick-metal reworking of the original riff. Unfortunately, even a really cool idea grows extraordinarily tired over the course of a 4-minute song with no changes except the occasional 'Kihh!-kihh!-kihh!' of an echoed percussion noise.

And that of course calls to mind something notable about Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco. One of the things HR says to the audience is "We wanna see some SKANKIN' out there!" Did you know that "skank" is a synonym for "mosh" or "slam dance"? Many don't because nobody ever uses it. I haven't even heard the term since I was a teenager, and pretty much nobody used it back THEN either! Still, it proves that my friend Christian Smith was correct in pointing out that Acid Reign's awful Moshkinstein EP should've in fact been entitled Skankenstein. You know, what with it actually rhyming and making sense and all.

I'll give I & I Survived (Dub) this -- the songs near the beginning are bustingfull of dark, tense bass lines. Unfortunately, over the course of the album, the songs get happier and cornier until by the end you realize the band is all high on marijuana and have been fooling you, a policeman, into treating their music as if it were created by human beings rather out drug-addled animals out to destroy every tradition that America holds dear. But don't worry - it's never too late to shoot an unarmed black man 31 times while he's sitting in his car.

Hang on, I just thought of something else I should have said about Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco. One of my absolute favorite phrases to see in print is "for all intensive purposes". It's the perfect argument against relying on cliche's to do your thinking for you. Nobody does this on Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco.

So really, it's up to you. Do you like dub reggae? If so, you may very well enjoy I & I Survived (Dub). I personally am just not much into this type of music.

If I could get back to the original topic of discussion, Soul Brains: A Bad Brains Reunion Live In San Francisco, I wonder what it would be like if ALL our favorite bands replaced the word "Bad" in their names with "Soul"?! I doubt that Paul Rodgers and Boz Burrell would mind touring the world as "Soul Company," but what about poor Greg Graffin and Pete Finestone having to perform concerts as the faggotassity "Soul Religion"? And who's going to take Nick Cave seriously if he's backed by a bunch of "Soul Seeds"? And don't get me STARTED about "Color Me Sould"!

Or what about John Waite and his "Soul English" supergroup? What the heck would "Soul English" even mean!? It wouldn't mean ANYTHING! And don't even get me STARTED about Peter Banks' post-YES band "Soulger," with their patriotic war-themed prog rock!

And don't even get me STARTED about Erykah Badu! Can you imagine how angry her mother would be if she up and changed her name to "Erykah Soulu"!? Actually, probably not that angry since her birth name is Erica Wright. If her mother were going to get mad, the whole "Erykah Badu" thing would have likely done the trick already. Somebody erase this one.

And what if, in retaliation, all the bands with "Soul" in their name changed it to "Bad"!? Watch out, "Bad Asylum" fans! Because "De La Bad" is gonna be right over to play some "Bad II Bad" songs, and TV's "David Bad" is gonna bring his ass dildo to t

In summation, Rock For Light must become a part of your record collection as soon as possible.

Reader Comments
Bout time you reviewed them, Im not gonna lie, I got into them because I heard they were black (same as me). Im such a dirty racist, All I do is prance around blaming white people for my problems, white people created AIDS and war. Anyway, their early albums are great, their later albums not so much. And I actually like their reggae stuff unlike you Marky Mark. Its probably because you are too white.
Oh, my God!; the Bad Brains!

It was worth the almost a month wait. You already had covered the other "big four" American Hardcore bands (DKs, Black Flags, Minor Threat and Misfits, by Stephen Blush' criterion), so, as a Hardcore Punk connoisseur, it was just a matter of time to get the most gifted Hardcore Punk band of its time covered as well.

You know what? I got the same feeling when I first heard "I Against I" a couple of years ago (well, the first album I ever heard of their catalog was the godawful "Rise"). I thought "This is the classic landmark album that every critic is raving about?". Aside from the multi suited title track, "House of Suffering" (which gets more Hardcore and exciting in the live album versions) and, maybe "Let me Help", the record is kinda weak, and very dated; I mean, your depiction of it couldn't be more accurate. What is it, "Hair-Funk-Metal"? Horrible production, as well.

Luckily for us, the Bad Brains released fantastic albums early in their career, "Rock for light" being the best (and the best American Hardcore record, up there with "Complete Discography", that's saying something). My only complain about it, aside from the horrible "Rally round Jah throne", and the thin sound is that "Sailin' On" is the only song that does not improve upon former versions (too fast and maniacly sung to preserve its anthemical nature).

PD: American old school Hardcore (circa1979-1984) was in my humble opinion, one of the defining and most creative moments of Rock music, nevermind what critics may say. There was a trillion ultra mediocre, run of the mill bands (Million of Dead Cops- horrible singer-, early Government Issue -they were really good at the end of their career-, SOA, SSD, COC, FUs, YDI, NfX, AOA, - enter an acronym here- the most overrated of them all, the Cro-Mags, and a never ending list of third rate Minor Threats); but the good ones made like some of the best music ever recorded, period.

Carry on, Prindle, carry on!!!
"For All Intensive Purposes" would be a very useful phrase to have stamped on the charts for all acute inpatient admissions. And yes, "For all intents and purposes" is one of many nutrition-free cliches that clutter up our speech just to make something sound more important and authoritative than it actually is. Other examples of this are:
1) "By and large" (where did THAT one come from?)
2) "At the end of the day"
3) "It turns out"
4) "All in all"
5) "Basically" (I use this ALL THE TIME and basically, I can't stop)
6) "For what it's worth" (hear that sound? everybody look what's goin down)
7) "As sure as eggs is eggs" (Supper's Ready!)
8) "Not to needle the toaster, but..."
9) "To put the drain in transit,..."
10) "Hey, Mark Prindle"

I don't like reggae either. Some Marley's ok once a year or so, but only if I'm near a swimming pool and it's sunny outside and I've had 5 beers.
Every January the Onion comes out with a list of the most unessential albums of the preceding year. The thing to keep in mind is that to be truly unessential an album doesn't have to be particularly BAD, it just has to make you scratch your head and wonder "Why on earth was this released?"

So the award for the "Least Essential Bad Brains Album" goes to the one you review in the "Add your thoughts?" email link below: Spirit Electricity.

Here's the deal. There are only SIX songs on it, FOUR of which are done ever-so-slightly better on The Youth Are Getting Restless - which came out BEFORE this album. So why was this even released?

The only possible explanation is that SST got a 3-record deal out of the Bad Brains (pretty bright considering they break up twice a year) so they had to release Live and this album.

The two songs that aren't on those other albums are decent however. The version of "Return to Heaven" is better than the one on I Against I and "Attitude" is good while it lasts (about a minute and a half) even though if there's a decent chance that any Bad Brains album will have that song on it (it's also on Black Dots, The ROIR Cassette, Rock For Light, Live at Maritime Hall).

Oh and here's another head-scratcher. Spirit Electricity was recorded live in LA and Providence RI. And from those TWO shows they were only able to use SIX songs?!? Come on Greg Ginn I know you read this, why did this happen?
Hey Prindle, I was browsing Bad Brains videos on YouTube today, and after remembering the "interview" you had with him, I thought you might enjoy these:

Pay To Cum in 1979:
Pay To Cum in 2006:

That's quite a difference...

Somehow MCA from the Beastie Boys managed to make an almost perfect Bad Brains records (Build A Nation), almost 30 years into their career. It's certainly not ground-breaking - loaded with plenty of ROIR-era punk rockers, Rock For Lighty reggae jams, and I Against I chunkers. The production is clear through the fast material, ethereal for the reggae songs, and massive for the heavy parts.
The thing that will undoubtedly turn people off with this record is HR's performance. With their earlier stuff, HR was right there in the trenches with the band (Pay to Cum for example); but this time he just kind of floats around on top of the din, sometimes aided by some dub-style delay. With their previous album it seemed like HR still had the ability to deliver, but his performance was kind of phoned in. Even when he was literally phoning performances in he didn't phone in a performance like he did on that album. This time around, HR seems like he's trying, but there's just nothing else really left.
"Give Thanks and Praises" starts out with an a cappella vocal harmony to Jah (imagine that!), then a heavy part, then a fast part with a one or two-word verse. Other highlights are the "Don't Need It"esque "Jah People Make The World Go Round", the "Sailin' On"esque "Universal Love", the "Send You No Flowers"esque "Send You No More Flowers" (which also includes HR going off about hyphenated percentages and the like at the end), and the soothing "Peace Be Unto Thee". Some of the tracks have potential but are too short, especially "Pure Love" and to a lesser extent "Build a Nation" and "In The Beginning". "Roll On" is one of those reggae tracks that really doesn't go anywhere. However, considering how uneven their material post (and maybe even including) Rock For Light has been, it's not enough to make the album ungood.
Clearly, this is their best album since Some Girls.

Add your thoughts? If so, please note that the Spirit Electricity Live EP features six live tracks from the very same I Against I tour that spawned Live and The Youth Are Getting Wrestlers. Two of these live performances are of songs from IA, two are from RFL, and two are non-LP tracks quite similar in both style and title to those found on The Youth Are Getting United (So They'll Never Be Divided). Unfortunately, all six feature that same big 80s metal sound that made a sour blister patch of Live, and although none of these songs appeared on THAT album, 4 of the 6 did in fact make themselves heard on The Y. Are G. R.. Thus, the only previously unavailable live tracks are "Return To Heaven" and "Attitude" (the latter of which is, incidentally, still an awesome fast kicker even when slicked up like this). Of additional interest is that "The Youth Are Getting Restless" (the song) is filled with gated drums, high-pitched electronic notes, and such improvised monologue as "This is a special dedication to the South African brothers and sisters who are now fighting for their freedom" and "DO YOU HEAR THAT, MARGARET THATCHER?!?" Fuckin' Margaret Thatcher. Shove the Falkland Islands up your arse! Also -- Dole Queue! Furthermore, I'm pleased to report that Henry The Dog's Ultrasound Examination revealed his kidneys to be (apparently) as healthy as a newborn banana. The vet's not sure why one of his kidney levels appears a bit high, nor why his urine isn't as concentrated as that of other, lesser dogs, but word on the street is that he's 'lookeeeeng gooooooooood!,' as Freddie Prinze, Jr. used to say on his 1970's television series Chico And The Man Starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. Of "She's All That" Fame Starring Matthew Lillard. So let's hear it for Henry The Dog! (even though my wife lost him in the woods on our vacation last week and it took us 45 minutes to hunt him down, the prick)

Add your thoughts?

Build A Nation - Megaforce 2007
Rating = 5

A wise man once said, "Oh no, we don't want to burn (mumble mumble). Yeah, we just gotta produce some (mumble mumble)." And that man was none other than H.R., venerated lead vocalist of long-time marijuana burnouts Bad Brains. So imagine my surprise and tentative excitement upon learning that these reggae/bad metal specialists were finally planning a return to their early '80s hardcore roots! With the Beastie Boys' Adam "MCA" Yauch behind the production knob, they were intent on re- their deserved reputation as one of the greatest and most intense hardcore bands of all time. But have the passage of time and constant ingestion of The Devil's Smokey Drug affected the band's ability to write the sort of exuberant, violent and super-hooky speedcore songs that were once their specialty? In the words of H.R., "Ohhhhhhh most definitely!"

So how hardcore is it? Well, not as hardcore as Rock For Light, but certainly more hardcore than anything they've done since. It's essentially a mix of Bad Brains-style hardcore, Quickness-style metal and Rest Of Their Career-style reggae. In fact, here -- as a special bonus addendum, I'll list all the song titles and corresponding subgenres. You'll notice that the song titles are awfully Rastafarian. This is because the Bad Brains are Methodist:

"Give Thanks And Praises" - hardcore/slow metal
"Jah People" - hardcore/punk
"Pure Love" - punk with guitar solo/funky hard rock
"Natty Dreadlocks 'Pon The Mountain Top" - reggae
"Build A Nation" - punk
"Expand Your Soul" - punk/slow funky metal
"Jah Love" - reggae
"Let There Be Angels" - hardcore
"Universal Peace" - punk/trudge metal
"Roll On" - reggae
"Until Kingdom Comes" - reggae
"In The Beginning" - hardcore/funky metal
"Send You No More Flowers" - hardcore/trudge metal
"Peace Be Unto Thee" - reggae

So that's pretty good. A full nine songs feature punk or hardcore passages, and only the remaining five are reggae. Unfortunately, the hardcore riffs are generally uncompelling -- either predictable/generic or ugly/ugly. The musicians still play extremely fast and hard, and there's no mistaking Dr. Know's classic metallic guitar tone or Earl Hudson's manic, space-filling drum attacks, but too many of the riffs just don't stick. There's no "How Low Can A Punk Get?" or "Big Takeover" on here. There is a "Sailin' On" but that's because "Universal Peace" is a ripoff of "Sailin' On." And that hardly counts. Come on now!

It's getting late and we better go!

Heh heh, good old Kinks b-side humor.

In other news, they play some really cool rhythmic accent parts like in the olden days (check out the oddly placed beats in the awesome title track!), and H.R. sings everything through an echoey delay pedal as if it were reggae. Seriously - no screaming at all. In fact, you might suspect he has no interest at all in this kind of music -- and you'd likely be correct! His singing is fine, but that's all it is - singing. Like you or I might sing on a Saturday night. Look at us go! Hey! Get your "microphone" out of my "microphone stand"! You're tryin' to make a "sod o' me"! (sodomy) I'm The Fonz and I don't want to be in one of your "Ayyyyyyy!.... null sects"! (anal sex) Ahh! You took my favorite little hole and "wrecked him!" (rectum) I want to go "home! Oh, sects -- you all love making" (homosexual lovemaking) my "buttered" (butt hurt) toast fall on the "floor"! (anus)

That last paragraph was for all my fans in the LGBT community.

Adam "MCA" Yauch did a great job with what they gave him; everything sounds tight, loud and well-mixed (including the always-expert basswork). But this band hasn't written a consistently solid album since 1983, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they fail to do so here. There are a couple of standouts ("Jah People" speeds along with some killer finger-drop twiddling, and I already mentioned the title track), a couple of complete stinkers ("Roll On" sounds exactly like "Natty Dreadlocks" but without the cool bass line; "In The Beginning" is simply a weak composition), and a whole lot that are just inoffensively mediocre. However, I urge you to note the funny "ek ek oop ooh" noises in "Jah Love." What the hell is doing that? A wah-wah pedal? A Space Martian? Oh, how I hope it's not a Space Martian!

In summation, Build A Nation is neither great nor awful but simply, in the words of H.R., "Okay. Just... hold on, okay? (*1 minute and 29 seconds of silence*)."

Reader Comments
Natty Dreadlocks 'pon the Mountaintop or whatever that reggae song is; is fucking horrible.

kralj interneta
this is their best sounding record (productionwise). but i like the songs too. i dunno, i expected a complete crap but i was pleasantly surprised. turns out that bad brains "dishonest" money grabbing record sounds better than most of "honest" heart driven hardcore records. *ducks and covers*

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