Of course there were always plenty of white punk bands playing reggae and roots music; but there wasn't too many black bands playing hardcore.
Yet Bad Brains were in no way a novelty act; but they were unique.
In the early eighties, punk music was rapidly turning towards thrash. Beats were getting faster and faster, and especially with American bands there seemed to be a competition as to who could go the fastest.
The Dead Kennedys were probably winning this race in 1982 with their Plastic Surgery Disasters album, but Bad Brains' debut left Biafra's crew panting way behind in the distance.
The only let ups from BB's barrage (the best, I think, are the ever-so-fast 'Attitude' and the wonderful 'Big Take Over', the fastest 12 bar ever heard and a refrain to die for) come when roots music replaces the hardcore riffs and shouts; and Bad Brains could sure do roots, again in a quite idiosyncratic way.
They almost sounded white! But obviously retaining their cultural identity (apologies if that makes little sense); finding as much inspiration in the Clash and the Ruts as they inevitably found in genuine roots music.
Live, they were dynamic and fully charged. HR, the singer, used to perform back flips on stage, which was staggering considering the huge percentage of audience members that would feel the need to join the band onstage, either to launch themselves atop the busy mosh or just to jostle and share a space with four very energetic rastafarians.
I only got to see them once, and that was when they were touring the Quickness album in 1989. They were really coming to the end, and much of their energy had been diminished, but they were still superb; and Quickness had seen a return to form that fired them up some what; and despite HR's cardigan (anticipating the grunge look maybe) he proved that he could still do it, back flips 'n'all.
Bad Brains - Bad Brains (1982)
Don't Need It
Banned in D.C.
Fearless Vampire Killers
Big Take Over
Pay to Cum
I Luv I Jah
Excellent Cassette rip @320kbs
Get brained here
It should have been their final trope.
Bad Brains - Quickness (1989)
Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs