Review Summary: The culmination of everything Black Flag was leading into at this point in it's lifetime.
Before we actually dive into the music that is actually on this album, let’s just take a moment to bask in the glory that is this record’s cover. It’s trashy, provocative, but most of all, it is wrong. This album sounds so wrong, with it’s atonal and sloppy soloing, it’s harsh and hateful screaming, and it’s more progressive songwriting, it all just feels so wrong, yet (you guessed it) so right at the same time. Also, the album cover is a fun way to shock your conservative and suit-and-tie buddies if you go to an upper-class privileged high school much like myself. That, however, is all the fan service you’re going to get if you bought the CD version; the booklet on the inside simply carries the damning name Black Flag and the four bars.
As for the music that is on this record, it can be best summarized as such; about fifty percent of it is as close to perfect as you can get with a Black Flag album, a fourth is decent/good, and the final fourth is simply head scratching. The album essentially is a perfect image of everything that was building in Black Flag. Henry Rollins was starting to take a more prominent role as a lyricist and singer, Greg Ginn’s guitar playing took a turn for the more avant-garde and jazzy side of metal, The sludginess of My War was combined with the furiousity of Damaged and the oddity of Family Man, and the lyrics just kept on getting more serious and self-loathing. All of this combined could’ve been either the greatest thing Greg Ginn ever did, or it could’ve been simply too much for anyone to bear (Not that Ginn has ever been afraid to challenge the audience). In actuality, it was a bit of both and yet neither.
Regarding the four out of eight songs that are simply bliss, I will say that if the whole record turned out like these songs then it definitely would’ve been the greatest Black Flag record (in this reviewer’s humblest and most worthless opinion). Slip It In and The Bars are fast-paced, violent, and anguished classics in the Black Flag discography, with the former having a head-pounding start and stop chorus and a (literally) orgasmic finish, and the latter being blessed with an intense build up of Rollins screaming “The Bars!”, leading into the catchiest guitar lead of the entire album. The other two songs, Black Coffee and Wound Up, are more mid-paced but just as powerful. Black Coffee contains a guitar tone that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Melvins record, and while the solo does feel a bit awkward due to it’s slower pace while maintaining Ginn’s famed atonal playing, it serves it’s part in the song. Wound Up contains definitely the poppiest verses on the album that recall I Love You from the My War record. The one-two drums give a more upbeat feel along with Rollin’s more tame singing during the verses only to lead into the explosive chorus of screaming and drum fills. These are the four songs that you’ll likely find yourself turning to the most.
As for the other four songs, they aren’t necessarily bad more than they are, well, odd. The better two of the four are the album’s final songs; My Ghetto and You’re Not Evil. The former track is what would eventually be known to the word as “powerviolence”, and attempts to recall the blistering pace and simplicity of Damaged, but just comes off as small when put up against the rest of the album. The latter track does not suffer at all from being “small”, but rather from being too much. The droning singing attempt by Rollins on the verses is a bit off-putting, and the constant tempo shifts can get a bit much. This, however, is still the better of the two tracks, as it maintains the head turning guitar parts and songwriting the rest of the better side of the album had. Then, there is the issue of the worst songs on the album; Rat’s Eyes and Obliteration. Obliteration is a six-minute instrumental that focuses on the musicianship of Ginn, Kira Roessler, and Bill Stevenson with jazz-like parts. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like heavy metal jazz instrumentals as much as the next self-indulgent hipster who doesn’t actually listen to heavy metal jazz instrumentals, but simply put this song is boring. The main verses never change, only doing so when Ginn decides to drop a famed noise solo. And then there is the infamous Rat’s Eyes. All that can be said that hasn’t been said about Rollin’s cheesy delivery of cheesy lyrics and the could’ve-been-cool-but-are-bland guitar parts is that the song warrants at least one listen to from people who are interested in the album. It contains enough what-the-*** value to be given that. Other than that, avoid it.
So, that is Slip It In in a long-enough review. It is definitely essential listening for those who are fans of the band and even for those who simply like sludgy and bone-crushing hardcore. Others, however, may be left yearning for the simplicity of Nervous Breakdown or Damaged and, listening to this, may be left saying “what the…” (get it?). Not for everyone, but an excellent album still.