Review Summary: "In the quest for the test to fulfill an achievement; everybody's only in it all for themselves"
Sitting upon a refreshing field of grass is, unto itself, reasonably (literally as well) soothing. Picture your very soul being unable to oppress those inner demons who have spent their egregrious quality time deriding one's tastes in music, religious views, disposition, et cetera, et cetera. Right at the moment where you balance yourself upon the sod, tranquility and merriment worm their ever so righteous ways into your heart; could this truly have been the turf's work? Before this query is about to even be answered, soft rains had come to further cushion the past blows you endured, and - to the bolt from the blue - the gods and goddesses were never involved in this. Something, someone, or a certain number of people heard your pleas for help with their music. It then occurred to you that the Washington, DC-based outfit Bad Brains
were your own newest of saviors.
Fronted by the zealous H.R. (Human Rights), the four Rastafarian bandmates assembled in 1977 and cautiously followed the movement. Prior to the existence of the quartet's self-titled debut album, they originally came together as Mind Power
: a jazz fusion ensemble who, over time, would turn out to be one of the hardcore punk genre's pioneers. This band's style is best exemplified via an intense and fast sound rooted in punk rock, albeit with interesting twists such as the utilization of guitar solos, which can be a part living within complex rhythms for any other peers. Bad Brains
was a very influential release when it was first issued, to the point where Adam Yauch - formerly of Beastie Boys
fame - believed it to be 'one of the best punk/hardcore albums of all time'. So three years had then passed after Bad Brains' second album entitled Rock for Light
was made available, and these kinetically chill dudes would unleash the best-selling full-length in their catalog, I Against I
The record was released in November of 1986 through the SST Records label, with production by Ron Saint Germain. It features 10 songs which are far more than sufficient at comprising the entourage's most legendary material up until this point, even though there exist quite a few detractors who beg to differ with the band's self-titled album deep in their pockets. Much like with its predecessors, I Against I
sees Bad Brains continuing on with their energetically punk-driven tunes sent flying right in the listener's mouth, though this time around, the bandmates try to turn up the excitement with subtlety. What sets the record apart from the last two albums is the newly-implemented traces of funk, soul, and heavy metal grouping up with the 'punk reggae' nature which was already obvious from the start; it's also way more of a polished effort. Though I Against I
doesn't include songs a la "Jah Calling" or I + I Survive," but this acts as a newfound strength for H.R. and his peeps. How so? Well let's just say that the gang couldn't have put out a more consistent offering, which also calls for some well-needed renovations in the songwriting area.
A full-length like this is no chore to sit through at all, but rather a delicate experience able to speak to both the mind and the nucleus. I Against I
nearly goes over 32 minutes in length, though the inclusion of more pieces would've made it redundant and therefore tiresome. This album's musicianship is still just as frenetic (if not less so) as Bad Brains
or Rock for Light
, yet precise and somewhat extraordinarily psychic. Dr. Know and Darryl Jennifer never seem to be behind the curtain here and jam out whilst on the same page, and the compositions they have written together with the Bad Brains frontman are just fantastic. Whether it be Know's soloing on the anthemic "Let Me Help" or Jennifer's slap bass or popping techniques provided for "House of Suffering" and the hallucinogenic tone of "Hired Gun," no elements are misplaced and fit perfectly within the band's context. Earl Hudson's skills as the group's drummer are snazzy on their own, for he supplies adequately dizzying fills and the most enticing of patterns which do a grandiose job at resonating with H.R.'s iconic voice, particularly on the album closer "Return to Heaven." Speaking of the latter, the vocal performance of Human Rights is surprsingly versatile, though not as chameleonic as fewer folks might assume. His nasal barking, coupled with those frenzied shouts and the (sorta) Jamaican vibe the guy can give off, is hard not to enjoy as a whole. He'll spit his lyricism out with a bunch of gusto on heavy-hitters like the title track, though he's willing to croon on "Re-Ignition" and "Sacred Love" if given the best opportunity.
But what more has to be said about this release that hasn't immediately been explained before? True you could point out that Bad Brains
is probably thought by many Sputnikers here as the punk band's highest point in their lives, in spite of its one or two hindrances, but I Against I
just feels complete at the end of the day. Its production is smooth and captivating for the biggest of audiophiles, the instrumentation presented is bound to have something for virtually anyone, and the atmosphere isn't always too vigorous, but not sluggish in the least. This is an album which represents unity, love, and peace all at once.