Review Summary: I Against I is high energy progressive punk rock, with touches of funk, jazz, reggae and heavy metal.
The average punk band starts off playing punk music. From there they usually progress their sound to something along the lines of emo, heavy metal, ska, electronic or what have you. The progressing of sound, in itself is an interesting concept. It usually results from the preferences of the individual band members and outside influences. Bad Brains is one of the rare punk bands that didn’t start out playing punk, which has set them apart and given them an extremely definitive sound.
Bad Brains started out playing jazz fusion, with various members having roots in reggae. Around the late 70s they grew aware of the punk rock movement, and they would never be the same again.
What do you get when you roll jazz, funk, reggae, and punk stylings into one record and light it up with the fresh fire of heavy metal? You get “I Against I”, the fourth official release of Bad Brains.
starts with lone drum pops, corresponding ring outs and the start n’stop slow motion metal they were starting to experiment with. Following, theirs what sounds like distant, static news radio chatter. I can’t tell what it says but it might as well be discussing how the following songs are going to smash your cerebellum and temporal lobes together, causing your brain to implode in your skull.
I Against I
, the title track holds up any pre expectations that anyone would have for title tracks. It starts with fast pounding drums that achieve a double bass pedal sound without the use of one. Theirs no real song structure, as it moves along in a metamorphosis of tempo changes, shredding chords, and the array of vocals that gives Bad Brains a special place in the hearts of hardcore fans.
House of Suffering
is catchy and will most likely get stuck in your head. Daryl Jennifer plays bass with blinding quickness and the hoarse screaming honestly terrifies me more than any other modern day hxc band or any other kind of music that contains the letter x in it’s genre.
is the perfect combination of every individual component of the song. The B, D, F#, A progression that slides and pinches, the cymbal heavy drum beat and that singing just ignites the song into the single heaviest Bad Brains track of all time and space. If the heartfelt lyrics don’t win over the lady it’s about, then Dr. Know’s six string intimacy will.
has an awesome intro that manages to make you think of espionage without anything sounding remotely similar to Mission Impossible or James Bond. The verses are pretty mellow and the chorus includes the most impressive drums I’ve heard in a Bad Brains song. The thump of the slap bass compliments Earl Hudson’s seemingly random percussion very effectively.
Let Me Help
has an Iron Maiden like tone to it plus brute background yelling. The solo really shows off some sweet high end. The punk shifts to something a little more Rastafarian with She’s Calling You
. It’s got a tight rhythm, steady palm mutes in the bridge and one of the catchiest hooks on “I Against I”.
Rumor has it that the vocals on Sacred Love
were recorded over the phone while H.R. was in prison. They defiantly sound like it, giving them an alluring effect. Unfortunately the story behind it is cooler than the song, which kind of falls flat.
Demonstrates more of the jazz fusion influences. The lyrics are recited like poetry, with airy less distorted guitar that toughens up the track in an outlandishly awesome solo. It kind of reminds me of the movie “Sin City”, because of its telling the tale of a hit man in a classy style that evokes images of gray cityscapes and film noir story telling. Return to Heaven
is one of the longer tracks. It starts with very melodious vocals that jump to funk punk where H.R gets pretty high pitched. The guitars chug under what could easily pass for classic hip hop rhymes.
Bad Brains proceeded to release more dub n’ reggae and a little more punk rock material.” I Against I” will always be a stand out album because it has the best balance of all of their diverse influences plus an underlying tinge of metal. They proved that you can blend rasta and punk without creating ska. You can combine jazz, funk and rock and not sound like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not an easy feat. There really aren’t any weak points on “I Against I”. Some songs aren’t as good as others, but each instrument is played to it’s strength and with total energy. The kinds of songs you’ll find on this album can be summarized into two types. What isn’t a hyperactive punk track is a mini progressive rock masterpiece, utilizing only the fundamental and primitive instruments of punk.