Friday, August 3, 2007

Bad Brains, Revisited.


Okay, has anyone else heard the name Bad Brains come up several times in the past year and brushed it aside each time thinking, "yeah, they say it's Bad Brains, but they probably mean some crappy reunion thing with some random guy on vocals doing a bunch of reggae?" Does anyone else feel really stupid for ignoring the fact that one of the best bands on earth released an album over a month ago, or has played a spate of live shows recently with all four original members?

The two of us that make up Gathering Evidence have never claimed to be on top of anything or particularly up to date when we talk about music. We don't scour the web for the hottest new thing or even let you know when bands we like are playing in your town before they actually play (Mae Shi, Brooklyn, last night.) But still. I am getting all worked up, not because I have been neglecting Bad Brains for the last month (or year,) but for the past ten years.

You might relate when I say sometimes there are moments when I am listening to a piece of music and think this band/musician/song/album/etc. is perfect in every way. I'll remember something like that for a period of time and then file it away while I start looking for other things that make me feel like that. For a short period of time in high school I was totally in love with Bad Brains. It seemed hard to imagine anything better than 4 black guys into jazz and reggae and prog rock playing hardcore punk with random dub intervals. Even cooler to think they started in the late seventies, before the Clash released Sandinista! (the only other album I'd heard of that attempted to mix genres like that), and before Minor Threat (often cited as the originators of hardcore) even existed.

Turns out it is still hard to imagine it. That and the fact that they are all incredibly skilled musicians -- something that's not actually all that common in a lot of punk rock -- makes them all the more impressive. Most obvious, I guess, are H.R.'s vocals. He sings so fast it can be hard to differentiate lyrics from total gibberish, but he's got some serious range. In the video up there for "Pay to Cum" he sings the verse "I came to know with now dismay/ That in this world we all must pay/ Pay to write, pay to play/ Pay to cum, pay to fight" in under three seconds and then gets almost soul-y with the chorus "And all in time/ With just our minds/ We soon will find/ What's left behind." Mad props. But his brother, Earl Hudson, is probably just as proficient on drums. Same goes for Dr. Know's guitar-playing and Darryl Jenifer's bass. They're a really tight band.

So I am excited to get the chance to hear the new album, Build a Nation, which, incidentally, was produced by Adam Yauch (MCA) of the Beastie Boys. I probably won't blog about that, though.

Note to Jake: Go here. Wait to load. Fast forward to about 2:50. Repeat as necessary.

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