Review Summary: 16 songs in under 25 minutes, a true punk album.
So here it is, my first review on Sputnik after being here for over 8 months and I couldn't think of a better album (I actually couldn't think of one at all until about an hour ago) to start off with than one by Black Flag. Their raw, in your face attitude has made them legendary in the punk scene. Most people will think of the album Damaged when you mention Black Flag, but I think the album that really needs some credit is The First Four Years. This pre-Rollins collection of early Black Flag songs showcases the band at their best.
The album starts off on a very strong note with the song Nervous Breakdown. Its lyrics are written by lead guitarist, Greg Ginn, and seem to be about him basically being sick of it all and slowly losing his mind. Nervous Breakdown is a great opener to the album and will definitely leave you wanting much more, which you won't have to wait much longer for since all of the songs are fairly short except for Damaged 1. Fix Me clocks in at 58 seconds and is a great follow up to Nervous Breakdown. Keith Morris's vocals go along great with Ginn's simple guitar riffs. I've Had It bascially deals with the same things lyrically as Nervous Breakdown, being fed up with everything. Not a bad song, but is too similar to the opening track. The next song, Wasted, is the last song with Keith Morris on vocals. The lyrics deal with being wasted out of your mind, as you might have guessed. The Keith Morris section of this compilation gives the album a huge boost.
Tracks 5-8 (Jealous Again, Revenge, White Minority, and No Values) are among the best on the whole album. The vocals, sung by Chavo Pederast, are even more intense and angry than Morris. The album is worth it just for this group of songs. Definitely do not skip any of these! You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You is sung by bassist Chuck Dukowski. The vocals seem a little forced, sounding more like they are talked rather than sung. However, the rest of the band delivers and creates a decent track. Clocked In features Dez Cadena (later of Misfits fame) on vocals as does the rest of the album. A minute and a half of Dez nearly screaming his lungs out makes for one a great song. The next song, Six Pack, is a definite highlight. It starts out with a nice bass intro then goes into some humorous lyrics about alcoholism and how a six pack of beer is more important than anything else. This song is the best of the Dez Cadena part of the album.
I've Heard It Before and American Waste seem to deal with the flaws in society. These songs are about as "political" (if you even want to call it that) as Black Flag will get on the album. In my opinion, these songs do not live up to the standards of the rest of the album. However, they have started to slightly grow on me. Machine starts out with Cadena screaming "I'm not a machine!" with some bass work going in the background. The pace of the song then picks up until it dies down near the end. This song doesn't seem to have a lot of effort put into it and is probably the worst on the album. Louie, Louie is a cover of a Kingsmen song. I definitely prefer the Black Flag version. It's a very catchy song and one of the best on the CD. The final song, Damaged 1, is the longest song on the album and it lasts just over 4 minutes. Pretty much features a simple guitar riff going on through the whole song. I'm not a big fan of this song, but I don't mind it.
The Instruments- I was actually surprised by some of the instrument work. I thought it would be mediocre, and just barely coming together. I was wrong. Chuck Dukowski does a great job of keeping everything together on bass. Greg Ginn's guitar playing is sometimes a little repetitive, but has it's shining moments and for the most part fits in well with everything else. Drummers Brian Migdol and ROBO do a nice job of providing some simple, but nice beats. I can't even tell the difference bewteen the two.
Overall, a great album. If you're a fan of punk, or just want fast, exiciting music..pick this album up right now.