[100] Black Flag – Damaged

6 Mar

I was never this angry as a teenager.

Black Flag fronted by Henry Rollins

Black Flag fronted by Henry Rollins

I love hard rock, heavy metal, rock ‘n’ roll – whatever you want to call it.  I have always loved the sounds of a loud guitar or two, of pounding drums, and a growling / wailing / posturing vocalist.  I love the energy, the attitude, the release.

But I’ve often stepped away from the angrier end of the pool – when it comes to punk, I prefer the Ramones to the Sex Pistols.  Initially I couldn’t even understand why Axl Rose felt the need to curse all the time.

I’ve since learned that there are times and places where anger is appropriate, even required, but this was not where I lived in the 80s.  All of which probably explains why I’ve never sought out Black Flag before, and why the initial sonic attack takes me somewhat by surprise – I’m not immediately sure what the hell just happened.

The story behind Damaged is one of those “too unbelievable for Hollywood” moments, a young fan jumping onstage at a show and taking over the mic from the then-frontman.

The fan was Henry Rollins and, true or not, the story is punk rock history.

I quickly recognize the tradition behind these tunes, albeit played a little louder and faster than I’m used to.  And by the second time through the album I’m recognizing much more – specific melodies and choruses.

The effect is simpler, more primitive than the slick sounds I tend to default to, but the craft is still clearly on display – the simplicity is a case of choice rather than lack of talent.  It is intentionally raw and exposed, with no guile or deception, as is the mind driving it.

The discord is carefully, painstakingly rehearsed.

Eventually I can pick out some humor under the pain and anger, especially in the first few of the 15 short and punchy tracks.  But it is the disaffection, the alienation, the need for an outlet – healthy or otherwise – that comes through loud and clear here.

I never danced to Black Flag at The Hungry Years.  I don’t believe they were ever played in that happier, more tongue in cheek party time and place.  However, I can easily imagine rocking out to “Room 13” or “Rise Above” as a change of pace from Love/Hate and Bang Tango, Poison and Aerosmith.

Real pain and despair was not a part of the story in my formative years, so Damaged will never have the affect on me that it had on others, will never move me in the primal way the artists I connected with as a teen did and still do.

That is not to say that it does not have an affect today – there is something extremely honest and immediate here, and I am glad to explore it for a while, to dance around my living room blowing off some steam, realizing that this could have been a part of my narrative (and being thankful to my family and friends that it was not.)

I love that Black Flag is on the list, and that they follow Bizet and Bjork . . .

The scope and range of the music that we listen to every day remains endless, and I need to remember this when I complain about the latest talentless, auto tuned “celebrity”:  there was plenty of dreck and dross in the 1980s (and the 1870s, and the 1990s), but there were also moments – like Damaged, like Carmen and Homogenic – that will last forever.

Next Week:  Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 100 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (15 of 100 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (82 of 100 = 82%)

 

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