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Monday, 8 February 2010

Black Flag - 'The First Four Years' (SST)

The mainstream acceptance of 1980's underground rock music means that Black Flag have now been inducted into the canon, at least enough to make me feel a bit weird trying to write something about The First Four Years. Though, while Rollins does iPod commercials, what is Chavo Pederast doing these days? Dreams, legends and lifestyles were made here but I personally think I only really got Black Flag after reading Rollin's awful/amazing book of tour diaries, Get in the Van. Cause pretty much everything that's been written about Black Flag has been wrong, in the sense that it was not about lifestyle or politics or choice - it was only about the music, man. Now this is pre-Rollins, when Ginn's interest in experimentation was much more focused on structure and aesthetic experimentation than guitar playing innovations, though there's certainly a little of that here (like his solo on 'Wasted'). The debate over "who's the best Black Flag vocalist" has raged in a million shitty punk houses and parties and this CD is what everyone refers to. Why doesn't anyone ever make an argument that, say, Raymond Pettibon reinvented psychedelia in a new post-Watergate America? I'm gonna refrain from choosing my fave vocalist, though the path traveled from Morris to Cadena is an interesting one. We start out with fists pounded against dry wall; the music of curfews, sexual frustration, and directed anger. By the end the anger has widened its vision and we're punching concrete instead. 'Damaged I' is a good portal into the future, even hinting at the horizontal gruntfests of the heavy metal late Flag sound. The best thing I ever heard of all the ballyhoo for Black Flag is someone who said "this was soul music for white kids from the suburbs". You've all heard this, hopefully, so what more do I need to say? This CD is only 26 minutes long which is a bit surprising because for some reason I remembered it being about twice the length. Packing four years into 26 minutes should say something about precision, concision or maybe just incisions.

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