Saturday August 19th 2017

Black Flag – “Damaged”

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Black Flag – “Damaged”

 

Just like I think Black Sabbath was the first metal band and refined the genre to come. And The Ramones were the first punk band setting the path for all to follow. I would say with Black Flag and hardcore- they did the same.

Probably the first, one of the best and arguably, the most influential- Black Flag certainly deserves our recognition.

What follows is a dual texting classic album review. Those not trained in safari hunting and lead poisoning detection are warned to refrain from reenacting it.

So sit down in your comfy chair with all your snacks, all your relaxants and a fire extinguisher handy- for a world that leads one’s mind and senses onto an indescribable world full of terror and bliss- the world of dual texting.

 

Slimedog- I wasn’t sure of this, but I guess Black Flag is considered the first hardcore band.

Andy- Yes. Well I guess that’s probably true. They were formed back in 1976 by Greg Ginn who was the guitar player and primary songwriter. He points to The Ramones and The Stooges as his big influences.

Slimedog- Listening to the album now reminds me of The Stooges “Fun House” if they had a horrible rhythm section.

Andy- I thought the same thing. It seems the distorted guitar and general sound is somewhat influenced by The Stooges while the pace and simplicity is from The Ramones. Put it in a blender and, whoo-la, hardcore.

Slimedog- When I first bought the album, when it was new, I was disappointed by the dark, murky production and really only liked the three or four songs they played on college radio at the time. Listening to it now I find it pretty solid.

Andy- Yes, I agree. In retrospect I think my appreciation of what they accomplished has grown. Of course, The Ramones started it all. But Black Flag brought it to a new level that influenced many bands and genres that would follow.

Slimedog- I see the influence of Black Flag, more than any other band, on the current hardcore bands we follow.

Andy- True. Let’s check out the album. I guess we should start at the beginning with the first tune “Rise Above.” A straight forward tune that tells you all you need to know about Black Flag. Simple chords with an aggressive message.

Slimedog- What an exciting, electrifying song. Along with “White Riot” by The Clash, I consider them my favorite punk songs. And lyrically, though I know the song does not reflect this, I feel everyone needs to rise above any situation they’re born into. We were born simple townie, city boys and could still be drinking at the local barrooms- instead we headed to the punk bars.

Andy- Similar to Minor Threat, Black Flag usually has something serious to say. Of course, they have a few lighter subject tunes which we’ll get to in a second. But once Rollins joined the band they tended to get a bit more darker and serious.

Slimedog- With it’s shouted, background group vocals it created a blueprint for other bands to follow.

Andy- Yes, the tandem shouted chorus is a Black Flag trademark that we’ll see repeated throughout this album. The next song, “Six Pack,” is my favorite tune on the album. Not so much for the subject matter but more for what they did with the changing rhythms.

Slimedog- I love the rat-a-tat part the drummer plays. It’s like Ginn told him, “Whenever I play high notes do that drum fill.”

Andy- The way it starts out with one pace and then gets faster when it kicks in, is a hardcore trait I’ve seen bands repeat many times over the years.

Slimedog- Yes, it’s very effective. I must say though, much of the drumming on this album is atrocious.

Andy- It kinds of sounds at times like they were stuck between a traditional sound and a much faster rhythm. And the drumming got caught in the transition.

Slimedog- I guess I need to take into account that drummers had never been asked to play this fast! They had to learn new approaches.

Andy- Next is a much lighter comedic tune, “TV Party.” Not quite fitting into the hardcore moniker but a great tune none the less. I guess the strangest thing for me is that I remember all the TV shows they mention in the song.

Slimedog- Though the only ones that still exist are SNL and Monday Night Football. You don’t watch TV anymore?

Andy- No, I watch TV, but the number of shows available has exploded exponentially. In the old days it seemed like there were only a handful of shows that everyone watched.

Slimedog- Yeah actually I watch, maybe an hour a week. I mostly amuse myself with hand puppet shadows upon the wall. This song along with “Six Pack” are great, funny fun songs. That was put to a halt shortly after Henry Rollins arrived.

Andy- True. I think those were written before Henry joined the band. Henry was their fourth singer. Don’t forget their first singer was Keith Morris of Circle Jerks fame. The last tune we’ll mention is “Depression” which kicks off the side B off the album. A great tune with slashing, high energy.

Slimedog- Yeah, great lyrics and an energy that contradicts the subject matter. Though I do enjoy Greg Ginn’s playing, he makes Johnny Thunders look like Carlos Santana.

Andy- Greg Ginn was/is a true visionary ahead of his time. You can hear a lot of old rock’n’roll influences in his playing but he brings it to another level.

Slimedog- Well, I’m glad you chose Black Flag over my suggestion of Black Oak Arkansas.

Andy- Me too. I certainly enjoyed strolling down memory lane with you and hope our readers (all two of them) enjoyed it as well. Next time it’s your turn to enlighten us with another great piece of work. Maybe a Liberace tune?

Slimedog- Though he’s fabulous I’m leaning towards Boston’s “We’re Not From Boston, We’re Not Really A Band, And Our Music’s Kinda Bullshit, Too.”

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