I was excited.
A boring evening had ended with a bit of web surfing.
I'd heard that the bad brains were thinking about reuniting. It filled me with expectation. The Bad Brains had fueled many a haze filled night in my youth. They were an important thread in the soundtrack that weaved its way through my adolescence.
A new album (I cling to the now-antiquated term...)
A new Album from the brains... This time with HR on board -- all the original guys. No more albums with the HR impersonator guy... (more about him another time!)
I found my way to a myspace page. While it might seem elitist to say so, I have visitied myspace a grand total of 5 times before... I ahve wayways foudn it a strange and irrelevant corner of the world wide web -- one that I don't frequent...
A Google search had lead to the official Bad Brains page on myspace.com... There, as I watched the usual array of 'shout outs' and links to the official band pages of other bands I recognized, a Bad Brains song started playing. I didn't know it... It was a new song.. Indeed, the whole album was available to play there in the browser..
I did play it -- some tunes twice!
This was ALMOST the Bad Brains I remembered! This was SO CLOSE!
Yeah, it's HR -- the genuine article is hard to mistake. The soung of this man's voice is as implanted on my psyche as deeply as that dramatic deep-voiced movie commercial announcer that doeas all the big-budget movie commercials... You know the voice...
But there was HR. For the first few songs I was just so happy to have him back that the overly religious overtones of the songs didn't bother me.. In fact, at one point he even degenerated into his spitting, sneeringly aggressive nonsense syllables in 'Pure Love' as some of the heaviest Bad Brains riffs boomed in the background in a regrettably short song that left me thirsting for more in the image of 'Outro' from The Quickness album.
Yes, it was the brains.
Yes it was the original lineup...
It's called 'Build a Nation'!
Maybe it's politically charged?
There was Daryl on the bass kicking out some of the thickest basslines I've heard him pump. His performance (and some production work by Adam from the Beastie Boys) has stamped this album as the bass player's boomstick stomping down and giving notice.
The drums were strong and right on the groove (whether ti's a reggae groove or hardcore jam!)
Then came Dr. Know. In all my fantasies of becoming a great guitarist, Dr. Know was always the penultimate. the zenith. The goal to which I aspired.. If I could crank out 5 or 10 seconds of lead that vaguely sounded like him, I was proud for weeks!
I would pay to watch the man practice alone.
As the songs flew past (with the reggae tunes bothering me more and more) I began to notice that there were no guitar leads!
I listened to the title track ad could just hear the spots where the bass dumped impossibly low and hit the bottom of the riff and the whole band rocked into the groove and all the choruses and backup barking had built up to the moment in the song where Dr Know would have laid down his line with the fury and abandon that marked my rise to manhood. The type of guitar lead your mind would have a hard time getting around. One that would take your psyche on a ride for just a few seconds. Such an artist as Dr. Know could cause you to drift out of your ears and float around the room on his guitar lead.
Few other guitarists have impressed me with their mastery. His skill is enhanced by his ability to harness the very chaos that is an electric guitar. The shrieking.. The fuzzy-crunching, snarling freedom of the note soaring above the expertly crafted rhythm with the wailing vocals of HR rouding out the edges -- THIS is the Bad Brains I wanted to hear.
This is the starvation of my soul that longed to be fed as the album progressed.
One song after the other came with an extra dose of religion that I have learned to tolerate int he music of the Brains... Not being a religious man, myself, a lot of the fervor pouring from HR's mouth is lost on me... The more and more I found that it had taken over the majority of the songs, I began to feel a tinge of disappointment with this album...
The disappointment of the religious aspect, HR's weakened vocals, the absence of any honest-to-goodness guitar leads on the whole album... These things conspire to color my attitude toward this album...
Head nodding, heart pumping, fist clenching jams with their new-found low-end emphasis and even some friendly studio chatter from the band all make me like this album at least as much as any of the overly-produced non-HR efforts of the past few attempts...
And hey, it's the original lineup! That's worth a lot (and would be even if they had laid down a children's christmas album!!)
In the end, this album is growing on me and is definitely worthy to stand next to Quickness and I against I in my Bad Brains collection. No, it doesn't approach Banned in DC or the self-titled, but it is a refreshing blast of punk rock.
Now that they got the 'come back' done, if they could loosen up and let the shrieking vocals rage and the guitar solos fly... It could be a big deal -- a very big deal. Punk rock could claw it's way back from the grave and roll over the limp bizkits and kid rocks of the harder-end of the musical spectrum this decade...