Saturday, November 04, 2006

Brains, Still Bad After All These Years

As a high school skateboard nerd, I spent many a summer afternoon grinding the rails in some empty parking lot with Bad Brains blasting on my Sony Walkman. My Steve Olson Skull Skate was strictly Minor Threat- and Bad Brains-powered. At home, I would stare intensely at this picture of HR (right) while flipping my favorite BB's cassette, 1988's "Live," over and over, dreaming of the epic pit. I'd crank up "I" and "At the Movies" to prime myself for an all-ages warehouse punk show on the outskirts of town, lacing up my combat boots and spiking my hair with cement-like gel -- No matter what they say, never give in! Never give in! Reagan made us all very earnest. When I eventaully picked up guitar, I spent hours trying to emulate the wiry, precision punk-metal chaos of Dr. Know's solos. It was impossible. What was so amazing was that the pure machine-gun fury was met with sweet downbeat reggae numbers that opened my static suburban universe to the mysterious splendors of B. Marley, Peter Tosh and Big Youth. The discovery of weed was only a matter of time.

It's an old story.

And now they're back, according to Pitchfork, cutting a new record with Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch producing. That's exciting, although it's quite unimaginable that they can ever reproduce the savage energy of the early years. Who can? The discovery of these two YouTube performances -- "Attitude" and "Sailing On" from 1979 -- is a revelation. It's 1950s rock and roll as reimagined by late 70s black free-jazz punks. If you're not moved by these, you're not movable. Dig HR's foot work!

Bad Brains - Attitude 1979

On a recent visit to Washington, DC, the original Bad Brains home, I got a another copy of "Live" at Crooked Beat Records, where they have a vast selection of great old DC punk. (The very cool owner, Bill Daley, transplanted the store from Raleigh, NC, and has an amazing selection of used vinyl, which is why this site was able to enjoy the craggy strains of the Rick Danko solo album.) As in memory, "Live" Bad Brains is raw and beautiful fury. The guitar on "I" is pure scorcery, HR's scream blood-curdling. Play LOUD.

"I" - Bad Brains

"I Against I" - Bad Brains

"I & I Survive" - Bad Brains

"At the Movies" - Bad Brains


Django West said...

"I Against I" still rips!

Anonymous said...

I just watched a London show from the "Quickness" tour 1989. That was probablt the last great year of the original Bad Brains. I saw both HR solo and Dr Know and Daryl Jenifer recently in their new band, on seperate occasions that is. while both shows were good it just makes me yearn for the days of old. but get this...HR was sitting DOWN for basically the whole show and is yes going to be 50! Still, the new album will most certainly be better than 90% of the shit they try to call music these days!

Rich Rude said...

In the 80s, I bought Bad Brains on cassette from Camelot and the Record Bar. I think I bought Quickness right after someone played "I Against I" for me. Maybe it was Joedy Navarro, maybe Gerald A. Who knows? These days, I'm always looking to pick up a BB title if I see it on vinyl. I found "Quickness" at the Half-Price here in CC two months ago. Great condition ... they also had the SST live LP but I passed. I think I have that on tape and I'm not too crazy about it. Bought a brand new "I Against I" LP at Waterloo two years ago. Strangely, I didn't think to look for BB stuff when I hit a Georgetown record store on my one and only DC visit in '03. Another riff -- I remember going to a record convention circa 1990 with some of the guys I knew who could actually afford to be there. I remember watching a college acquaintance of mine throw down $50 for a BB record. I thought to myself ... I could go ahead and blow my wad on a piece of plastic right now or I can have food and beer money for the rest of the month. I went with Little Cesar's breadsticks and Old English Malt Liquor. I suppose it was the right decision.