Review Summary: Great selection of tracks from the best years a legendary punk band.
As I write this, it has been about three years since I started listening to Bad Brains. The first CD of theirs that I picked up was this one. My thoughts had been, "Why get a singular album that might not have a lot of songs you'll like when you can just pick up the Best of... and nearly every song will be great?". Prior to listening, I had been relatively aware of the band. I knew they were very important to the punk scene, and I knew that they occasionally did reggae tracks amidst the hardcore. I knew the music was blazingly fast, with very technical, shredding solos. Does this album deliver on speed, shredding, hardcore, and reggae? You bet your ass it does.
Banned in DC: Bad Brains' Greatest Riffs consists of 22 songs from their first 7 inch in 1979, and culminating with a song from 2002's I and I Survived. All the classic songs a fan or a novice punk would expect and want to be here are here: I Against I, Pay to Cum, F.V.K, and Banned In DC. The compilation, for the most part, draws heavily from Rock for Light, Bad Brains, and Black Dots. In addition to the studio tracks, also included is the version of Big Takeover from the Youth Are Getting Restless live album, and an instrumental version of Riot Squad, which takes on a very dark, unhinged sound. The reggae tracks (I and I Survive, I Luv I Jah, The Meek, and The Prophet's Eye) are decent. They have very chilled, relaxed vibes, and are a great deal slower than nearly every other song on here.
Musically, the entire band delivers in force. Daryl Jenifer and Earl Hudson make up the VERY tight rhythm section, keeping the band perfectly on time and cohesive, while Dr. Know propels the songs with slick riffing and wild soloing, and H.R lets out rapid fire streams of shouting and snarling. This band features more guitar solos than nearly any other punk band, and they are always refreshing to hear. There are not many moments of bass taking the lead, but the moments where Daryl Jenifer gets to let loose and play are great. The most notable of these is the bass solo in Big Take Over.
Bad Brains was an extremely important band for punk rock, alternative, and even metal. One can always hear traces of them in bands such as Minor Threat, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kyuss, Sublime, Skindred, Flaming Tsunamis, and countless others. If you've ever wanted to hear the starting band for the hardcore/ska fusion genre, these are the guys to listen to.
I strongly recommend listening to this album to get a good feel for Bad Brains. There's enough songs provided that it will be easy to come away with an opinion on the band, and at the same time, not enough which will leaving a listener wanting more. Aside from this band making very good music, they are vital listening for any punk fan. 4.5/5.