I admit to coming to punk later in life. I can’t say I was a punk in high school, even. In our small white bread town, we had one punk (who dressed the part) and most people were scared of him. I thought he was a nice enough guy, but the Sex Pistols and the Ramones didn’t mean anything to me then. I was the jazz kid, which never got me stuffed into lockers or anything, but punk wasn’t in my cards at the time it is for most people.
I would never have gotten to listen to these songs when they were coming out anyway. I was 4 years old when Black Flag started. But discover punk I did, eventually, and this is one of the best documents of the sound out there. Sure, sure, there’s a zillion bands you can think of to argue the point, but notice I said ‘one of’ the best. Not ‘the best.’ Although you could just as easily argue for that, too…
I’m rambling. Look, every song here is gonna rip off the top of your head. They’re gonna grab you by the lapels and shake you until you see what they saw, which was nothing less than the decay and downfall of the American Empire. They were ranting against that slow slide into mediocrity, fatter asses, station wagons and Lite FM radio. They were screaming against letting other people decide your life for you. They channeled the energy of youth and tried to show the world just how fucked up it is, and if that doesn’t define the term ‘punk,’ I don’t know what else does.
There were a few line-up changes over these years, and all of the songs here are pre-Henry Rollins-era Flag. Rollins himself has said many times that this is his favourite Black Flag album because it has all of the best tracks by the various line-ups from their early years. He should know, these were the songs they were playing when he joined up with them.
Anyway, I’ve ranted a few times in these pages about how Black Flag was one of the most important punk bands, about how they bucked trends and did whatever they wanted if it was what their guts told them to do. Every track on this record shows you why they mattered.
And c’mon, Keith Morris singing Nervous Breakdown? Untouchable!!