Damaged – Black Flag


1981 – SST

Hardcore/ Punk

Black_Flag_-_Damaged_cover

The first full length record from one of the most influential bands in the American hardcore movement, Damaged is explosive, intense, angry, and brilliant. The tempo and energy and blistering and there is just no way to deny the sincerity and unadultarated rage that floods this record. Really, it is one of the most exciting releases to have ever come out of the punk scene.

From the opening distortion and white noise riffs of Rise Above and all the way through to closing track Damged I the record is arresting and physically affecting. I mean, the churning nature of the music and the breathless shouts and rants of vocalist Henry Rollins just evoke the blood and sweat of hardcore gigs and the impotent anger that the scene was formed around. There is no focus on skill, composition, or melody, but rather a push towards unrelenting drive and force. Guitarist Ginn’s playing churns like knuckles on bitumen occasionally bursting out into sqealing solos, and the drums pound like a jackhammer while the bass lines throb along with a meandering danger, and it is this raw power that just makes the listener forget entirely about the fact that this music is … well, almost entirely unmusical.

Don’t, however, mistake this furious debut for a mere load of arresting noise and dumb punk attitude. No, Black Flag are for more intricate than that with their snide ironies and realizations of boredom and ineffectuality. T.V Party, for instance, really shows up this bands razor sharp sense of humour and honed political sensibilites. I mean, say what you like about the sketchy psuedo-intellectual that Rollins has become in recent years, but you just can’t argue with his sincerity on Damaged. His gutteral shouts and screams and audible destruction make it very clear that this is a man on a mission, and that mission is one of pure anarchy, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to throw out a couple of snarky one liners for anyone actually listening to the lyrics.

On the downside, however, the record does slow down a bit during the second side and loses a little of its impetus. The guitar lines don’t hold the same crunching power as the earlier tracks and Rollins’ vocals don’t have the same pep to them. This latter gripe might come from the fact that Rollins’ vocals were actually dubbed into the album much later than its recording as he had only recently joined the group, but even so it does drag somewhat.

The slowing down during side two, however, really is a small and petty issue with the record which apart from that is pretty much as perfect as a bare-bones hardcore record is ever going to get, but hey, you gotta complain about something.

So, in conclusion I think that I have made it abundantly clear what a triumph this record is. It really is just as exciting today as it was way back in ’81 when it first exploded onto the scene and launched this snarling new breed of punk-rock into the world. It’s a must have for any serious collector, and something that should be given due respect by and serious music fan, even if they don’t like punk that much. Damaged goes well beyond just being great for a punk album, it is just a fixture of modern music.

RATING: A+

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2 thoughts on “Damaged – Black Flag

  1. Pingback: Top Picks Of November 2013 | Lachlan J. Faces The Music

  2. Pingback: Black Flag – What The… | thesoundnottheword

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