Review Summary: On my way to the cage.
Henry Rollins is a man who knows never take things for granted; always expecting that new book, album or film to be his last. Despite his continuing success in the arts, he is a humble natured man, who calls up his shortcomings rather than his achievements. Most would be content with their life if they were involved in one of the most important punk rock bands of all time, but for Henry Rollins it's always on to the next thing. He has enjoyed success with his talk/radio shows; being an actor; author, and even presenter of his successful TV show. The guy could write off countless achievements throughout his life, yet, if you listen to him talk about himself, he represents himself as a man never quite at the top of the hill: on edge and in fear of being called out as a fraud. It's this brutal mentality that has surely been the burning and driving force of a man who was once content with spending the rest of his life doing low paid, menial work when he graduated from High School.
One thing that has remained constant throughout Henry's life, is music. After the demise of Black Flag in 1986 Rollins formed his next project, Rollins Band, with some friends to created his solo LP, Life Time
. Produced by the legendary Ian MacKaye, Rollins solo debut is one of furious speed and honesty; abrasion and out to knock your teeth in. The Rollins Band catalogue has had a very consistent run, that has ranged from various styles as you go from album to album, and a surprisingly different shift from his scathing punk rock blare of the Black Flag days. No, Life Time
is an album that manages to collect the raw punk energy and honestly of the fomer and push itself into a less restricting soundscape; ultimately creating one of the finest albums of his musical career. The LP is a blend best described as thrash with a jazzy swing to it. The speedy wrecking ball of "Wreck-Age" and "What Am I Doing Here?" show Rollins perched in his textbook comfort zone, and offers the aesthetics any Black Flag fan could enjoy, but the album runs at optimum efficiency when it reaches the album's curve balls. "Gun in Mouth Blues" is quite possibly one of the best songs written by the band in its 30 year career; a track that single handedly demonstrates why Henry has remained relevant after all this time. The slow build up from the instruments and Henry whispering "hard times" sets the dark tone perfectly, before slamming into a loose, jazz swing while Rollins lets go with a monologue approach to his vocals. This near 9 minute behemoth of festering, broiling hate is bottled up until it can't hold it in anymore, to which the track blows itself apart, with Rollins throwing a cluster bomb into the battle field by screaming out every ounce of his soul into the final seconds. Truly spectacular stuff. He's always used his records as a way of therapy, but it's here where you'll hear Rollins at his absolute prime.
Every track showcases Rollins tearing it up --the opening scream to "Do It" is chilling and raw-- but its the blues and funk influence in tracks like "Turned Out" and "Next Time" that really set this apart from being merely a Black Flag 2.0. Life Times
amalgamates so many different ideas into a rolled up pack of TNT, and it is simply devastating at times. Ian producing also brings a Fugazi, Minor Threat, post-hardcore, tinge to the overall tone of the record, bringing further elements to this already intense experience. The only flaw with the record is that --as with a lot of the Rollins Band LPs-- it has a tendency to drag in places; the likes of "What Am I Doing Here?" could have done away with a chorus here or a verse there, say, but Life Times
rarely suffers from this like some of the band's other LPs do. If you're a fan of punk, hardcore or the Washington D.C scene from the 80s, you owe it to yourself to check this album out, it won't disappoint.
Editions: MP3, V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶, C̶D̶
Special Edition: Depending on which issue of the album you listen to, there are a couple of included live tracks.