Black Flag- Damaged
It is said that the period from 1980 to 1986 is considered to peak of “hardcore" punk. Among some highly successful hardcore punk bands of the decade include the politically-enraged Dead Kennedys
, as well as Bad Brains
, and The Germs
. A big part of this movement was carried upon the arms of the front-men that made themselves fairly notorious by showing off their share of controversial lyrics and disputable political metaphors and puns that led fans to a state where governments where questioned as the enemy, thus a big population of the movement known as anarchy was formed. This sub-genre of aggressive punk died in a short time of less than a decade, but has since been resurrected by bands like Agnostic Front
, The Cro-Mags
, and Murphy’s Law
in the last few years. Another part of the movement was left to bands that were fond of the anarchy ordeal but kept side-lined among a different style of lyrics, while sending out the same message of suggestive material that was highly influential on early listeners. Among some of these are bands mentioned above, and coming out in front was the aggressive demolition of Black Flag
in the early 80’s.
Black Flag was formed in southern California in 1976 and was formed by guitarist Greg Guinn, and at first recruited vocalist Keith Morris and drummer Brian Migdol. Long time bassist, Chuck Dukowski was the bassist for most of the band’s career. The band went through many vocalists before early 81’, when a young Henry Rollins was hired as the band’s vocalist. He has been Black Flag’s longest-lasting singer, and brought something new to the perspective of the band that never went unnoticed. Guinn continued to write lyrics that in some people’s eyes are dull and unimportant, but to some fans are everything that ever kept the band going. In 1981, perhaps the biggest year for hardcore punk (as this is when it would start to take effect), Black Flag released their debut L.P and the album that is often recorded as the greatest achievement by the sub-genre along with Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
has been believed to be the band’s milestone in punk and is one of the most treasured pieces of work in the history of the genre.
The album to me revolves around the lyrics. While most of the songs tell about paranoia, alcoholism, drug abuse, isolation, and neurosis, they are presented by Rollins in a fashion that makes the lyrics themselves misleading. Excellent guitar-work by lead guitarist Greg Guinn fit it perfectly with whatever the deal is in separate tracks, and makes it stand for what it is. In other words, Rollins will speak the lyrics while Guinn will express the emotions and the frame of mind that the lyrics leave behind with insane solos that will ascend upon the listener in a very aggressive fashion most likely at an unexpected moment. Guitarists Guinn and rhythm partner Dez Cadena are a tremendous part of the album, and they speak for Rollins when he takes a break. Dez will accompany Henry on yelling choruses while keeping the introductory/main riff on a clean state. Dez has great capability with backup vocals, and if you look at it from a perspective, is doing harder work than Rollins at times in the peak of a track. Thirsty And Miserable, Police Story
, and Damaged I
are all great examples of what the two guitarists can achieve and what they brought to the band and album.
As always, I am big on the rhythm section, and on this there is no exception. In a nutshell, bassist Chuck Dukowski and drummer Robo do a good job at keeping more frantic tracks in place, and then some, by adding small solos and other impressive material in high points of the album. The first half of Damaged will start each song with a nice, clean bass-line that will progress to be joined to guitarists Cadena and Guinn, and then Rollins and Robo. Six Pack
, What I See
, and TV Party
all hold intros ignited by Dukowski, and other great material as the tracks go on. The workmanship of the bass-work dies down as the album goes on, and by the time the last track hits you, it can be easily pointed out that it’s not as strong as it was before.
The interaction between Dukwoski and drummer Robo is nothing special, but manages to keep the base of every track consistent and comes out winning every time. Robo, which is to this day one of the stupidest stage-names for a musician I’ve ever heard, doesn’t hold any over-impressive musicianship, but is still highly enjoyable to listen to on about half of his work on Damaged. Depression
, Damaged II
, and No More
show the most that Robo ever brought to the band, in his short span. His effects don’t hold much potential, as the most he does is execute with a simple floor-tom beat as Rollins hurls out his stronger howls of aggression, and some swift rolls on plenty of what seem to be an impressive collection of toms lying around his work-space.
Henry Rollins might not be the brain of Black Flag, but he is without a doubt the representative, and when someone thinks of the band, they must think of Rollins right away. Damaged wouldn’t be classified in the “hardcore" sub-genre if it wasn’t for Rollins, thus he is the one that brings in the energy and chaos transmitted from the musicians and bulks it together with his own brutal attack of aggression to create all that ahs ever been Damaged. Rise Above
, and both of the Damaged
scores on the album feature some of his very best he has to offer, and great examples of why he has earned his credit through such a breakthrough album. The two Damaged entries on here are slowed down an awful lot to let Rollins display some of his real talent, and the man makes it show. Also incorporating Ramones-like vocals on the track Gimme Gimme Gimme
, Rollins shows he can also present himself in different tones as well as completely different aspects.
Black Flag- Damaged is an ideal and therefore perfect place for a fan to start off on the sub-genre. By looking at the cover, you can tell the topics in the album themselves won’t be exactly brought upon very lightly, and the near-excellent musicianship as well as the bold assurance stance that is coming from Rollins truly makes this one of the most definite, most groundbreaking hardcore albums of all time.
Black Flag- Damaged-
Henry Rollins- Vocals
Greg Guinn- Lead Guitar
Chuck Dukowski- Bass, Vocals
Dez Cadena- Guitar, Vocals
Stand Out Tracks:
Thirsty And Miserable