Good to be back: Bad Brains Build a Nation being themselves
Tim "Type" Jordan
7/2/2007 10:25:19 PM

Bad Brain’s lead singer, H.R., the notorious, unpredictable, bad-brained, genius graces the mic out of the gates on the new record Build a Nation [Megaforce], until the band slams you into a most hardcore throwback to the late 70’s Washington DC punk scene (where this band was born). Dr. Know’s guitar work is unmistakable, hard and strong. And don’t forget that H.R.’s brother, Earl Hudson, on drums and Darryl Jenifer on bass, is one of the best rhythm sections in history within both the rock and reggae genres.

Bad Brains has an ironic history: The musicians got together in 1977 with H.R. joining the band in 1979, and then soon making a name in the punk/hardcore world. But throughout time, the music industry, as well as music-buying public, has had a hard time embracing African Americans in non-typically black markets like rock music. Despite the fact that the roots of rock and roll are black! Bad Brains is a prime example of a victims in a racist culture, like Fishbone, and any band with a black lead singer/members. Coupled with that racism, H.R. is known for his mood swings and erratic, sometimes violent behavior. It all became too much and the band split in 1984.

They returned with I against I [SST Records] in 1986, an album with a strong reputation as their best and quite significant to underground rock and roll history. If you like rock and you don’t have this record, I recommend going and getting it; it was life-changing for some of us. Then came Quickness [Caroline], released in 1989 and introducing the reggae sound to their lineup of songs. After the tour in 1999, they replaced H.R. with Chuck Mosely (formerly of Faith No More) and then they broke up again. They released Rise in 1993 without H.R. and Earl, to little fanfare.

In 1995, Bad Brains stormed back again on Madonna’s label, Maverick. That release, God of Love, is one of their best records, overall, with very spiritual and positive lyrics/vibrations. A lot of the then-famous alternative bands praise Bad Brains for their inspiration and music. On a smaller venue headlining tour, a few nights before they were to go on a world arena with the Beastie Boys, and ironic twist of fate, derailed them again…

At a Lawrence, Kansas show that same year, three songs into a most anticipated set, H.R. took a cast iron mic stand and brained a skinhead in the pit. He then jumped into the crowd and punched another skinhead right in the face. It was during the start of “Re-ignition,” one of their best songs…ever. The band kept going until H.R. jumped back on stage to hide behind a wall of bass amps. The band began to slow the groove and look at each other, until H.R. darted upstairs to the green room of the venue. The cops arrested him and threw him in jail for assault with a deadly weapon. They kept him for several months, for his own protection, because skinheads were threatening to kill him if he was released.

Everyone thought that was the end of Bad Brains. Maverick released a superb dub record, I and I Survived, in 2002. They reformed as Soul Brains for a bit, and reunited Bad Brains for a few shows at New York’s infamous punk venue, CBGB’s because it was closing.

And now, Bad Brains is back with a vengeance.

Build a Nation rips. The hard riffs break your neck and the reggae grooves sink and sway your lower parts. It sounds just like Bad Brains should, except that there are technical problems with the vocal tracks. Some of the levels are too low and/or not mixed as well as they could be, and it’s obvious these songs were recorded and mixed on different coasts, at different times, by different people. The reggae tracks shine. The music is there on the other tracks and drives through any problems with the voice levels. Any fan will be happy, and newcomers will be introduced and start the Bad Brains collection any hardcore/hard rock/reggae should have. It’s good to have them back; just keep your distance and pray for an ironic full show on the Re-ignition tour.

Ed.--Writer Tim “Type” Jordan was at that Lawrence show, and also worked tables at the restaurant across the street from where H.R. was released from jail. Tim says that he watched H.R. make his way to freedom in a purple Datsun.


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