Saturday, 7 February 2009

Brain Drain

Originally released on cassette, Bad Brains really shook up the punk scene with their excellent and still surprising first album.

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)

Sailin' On
Don't Need It
The Regulator
Banned in D.C.
Jah Calling
Leaving Babylon
Fearless Vampire Killers
Big Take Over
Pay to Cum
Right Brigade
I Luv I Jah

Excellent Cassette rip @320kbs
Get brained here

Despite great critical acclaim, I was a little disappointed with I Against I and its new sounding BB.

Dr. Know had embraced guitar technology and consequently the punk edge was lost in favour of a Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen kind of metal sound.

The big riffs were still there, and the production value had increased, but somehow it seemed to have lost some of the energy previous albums had.

It was also their only album not to contain any roots or dub tracks.

Quickness, their follow-up, did to an extent revert back to their default. And benefits enormously.

The high production value was retained, but the songs have more energy than those on I Against I, and its more hard core generally.

It was the last album BB made before HR's departure, and despite getting back together for the release God of Love, they were never the same band; times had changed and so had they, becoming far more righteous in their music and in their outspoken public statements - they even changed their name for a bit, calling themselves Soul Brains, as Bad Brains was too negative and anathema to their beliefs and attitudes!


However, Quickness did prove that in 89 they were still a great band; but maybe they knew at heart that it couldn't last, as indicated by the last track: 'Endtro'.

It should have been their final trope.

Bad Brains - Quickness (1989)

Soul Craft
Voyage Into Infinity
The Messengers
With the Quickness
Gene Machine/Don't Bother Me
Don't Blow Bubbles
Yout Juice
No Conditions
Silent Tears
The Prophet's Eye

Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs
Brain yourself here


Anonymous said...

thanks again!
been meaning to get this great album for a while and have!

roy rocket said...


Anonymous said...

Back again, just want to say blogs like this have influenced me to start my own.

even done a Jackofficers review thanks to you!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reupping the 1982 tape! (I visited some time ago and the link was dead) I have the CD version but wanna check that immaculate tape rip :)
Fernando :)