Henry Rollins Presents… Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three 5 Track Promo/Interview Disc
After a break, and a few posts in between (thanks for waiting and for Reading!), here we finally have my last score from the Toasty Taranna trip, and it’s a doozy!
Next up after this will be my finds from my trip to Taranna after my trip with Mike, but I don’t think I’m gonna keep track and number everything, as I’m sure the only one keeping track is me and it surely doesn’t matter or affect anything anyway. I’ll just say ‘hey I got this in Taranna’ and we can all get on with our lives. Cool? Cool.
Toasty Taranna #28: Sonic Boom #12: Henry Rollins Presents… Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs To Benefit The West Memphis Three 5 Track Promo/Interview Disc
ROLLINS! Yes, if I ever see anything Rollins that I do not already own, I snap it up. Still a big fan, after all these years.
Now, I own the official Rise Above disc, and have already covered it at some point in these pages. But this promo disc is interesting. The track titles oughta give you an idea of what’s here:
I already own the album tracks, but the talking sections are great because Rollins talking is always interesting and energizing, and it’s cool to hear the man himself talk about how this whole project came about.
Hit It Or Quit It? ROLLINS!
This post isn’t really about music, but it is about something that helped me rock!
Are you sitting down? Cool. Let me ask you a question: Have you felt the universe shift, recently? Yes? Well, here’s a truth:
I haven’t had a coffee in two weeks.
I’m the guy who lives on coffee, who sings its praises. Oh that black, black coffee…
Why, oh why, you ask, haven’t I brewed a pot for myself? Simple – it was really bothering my stomach, left me feeling raw and acidic. It reached the point where the thought of another cup was unappealing, because I knew how it would make me feel.
I tried cutting it with sugar, but that didn’t help (I’d never add cream, ugh). Eventually I just stopped. I haven’t had anything to drink but water (and a glass of wine, on Friday night) for two weeks. It’s probably healthier for me, honestly, but it sure has been an adjustment!
Seriously, I think you know me by now. I’m the guy for whom it’s reflex to throw on a pot in the morning and, if there wasn’t time to make a fresh one as the day went on, an instant coffee did the trick. I couldn’t tell you how many cups a day I was having, but it was several. And the stomach thing? Likely, I just over-did it. And my body made me knock it off.
As expected, I went through some irritability, exhaustion, and headaches. This all lasted for several days. But as time passed, all of that’s stopped, and my stomach feels a whole lot better too.
Funny thing is, I never used to drink coffee at all. It wasn’t until we moved to Saskatoon in 2001, and people would offer you a coffee when you arrived at their place in winter because it was -50C outside and anything warm was welcome indeed! I started out by putting so much sugar in it that it was a dessert more than a cup of coffee, just to cut the taste. Over time, the sugar got less and less until it disappeared and I just drank it black. I was acclimated. I went from one cup per day, in the morning, and added as we went until now, here in 2016.
So, maybe this is fine, for now. I still get twitches, the urge for a cup, but so far I’ve resisted. I don’t think I’m completely done with drinking coffee, but if and when I decide to dip back in, I’m gonna leave it at one cup and see how we go from there.
As for my energy levels without coffee? Heh heh, I’m still able to give ‘er like I always do, without the help of caffeine! The KMA keeps on rockin’!
If my memory serves me correctly, it was during a bunch of label crap in the early 80s (which kept them from releasing anything new) that Black Flag just kept playing and writing anyway. When the crap ended, they released a deluge of music, three albums in 1984! I’ve already reviewed Family Man, and My War, in these pages. But somehow I am remiss in not bringing you the brilliance that is Slip It In.
From its awesome Pettibon cover art to the absolutely insane and punishing music within, this record is yet another Flag masterpiece. The title track makes me laugh every time (while I rock the hell out). And then it’s one of my personal theme songs, Black Coffee. STARE AT THE WALLS! Wound Up keeps the energy going, and by now it’s obvious that Greg Ginn is some sort of riff genius – there are these brilliant bits pasted to absolutely simple bits, and it’s all heavy as hell.
Rat’s Eyes chugs along and tries to be menacing but it always just makes me laugh. I love this song for the camp that it is. Obliteration is a cool jazz punk metal instrumental. I used to think it needed words, but over the years, in the context of the album, I appreciate that they left it as is.
The Bars metal punks us into bliss, another solid Flag track. My Ghetto requires you get past the annoying feedback intro to get yourself sandblasted by the song itself! Haha wow that shit’s crazy! I love it! And finally, You’re Not Evil lurks along like that creepy guy walking behind you on the sidewalk at night. Those guitars! This song always slays me. Perfection.
It’s 38:37 of excellence, folks. Oh my yessss… slip it in…
Subtitled: Christmas 2014, Pt.10
Black Flag – Everything Went Black
Ah, Black Flag. Constant source of creative genius, incredible talent, relentless hard work, and punk fuck-you. There were boundaries to be pushed, and these guys didn’t give a rat’s ass if fans got pissed if the new record sounded different than the last. In fact, they relished it. Each album was a challenge: are you in, or are you stagnant? Damn I love this band.
A Christmas gift from my generous brother-in-law, this CD shows (also) what a bad fan of the band I am. I mean, here it was Christmas 2014 and I was only getting this record (released in 1982, originally) now. In a way, though, this is to my advantage. There’s still Black Flag stuff out there I don’t have! Cool!
Collecting “previously unreleased Black Flag recordings 1978-1981,” (meaning, before Rollins took over lead vocals), the 25 tracks contained here are, as you can imagine, completely incendiary. The tracks’ vocalists on the CD list like this:
01-09 Keith Morris (credited as “Johnny Bob Goldstein”)*
10-14 Ron Reyes (credited as “Chavo Pederast”)
15-24 Dez Cadena
25 ‘Crass Commercialism’ is a collection of radio ads for Black Flag shows
Alright, administrative crap aside, what did I think of this CD? It fucking ruled! No matter who was singing, first and foremost my ear is always, always, ALWAYS drawn to Greg Ginn’s incredible guitar. The rest is just gravy. And what tasty gravy it is! I don’t fault any of this, it’s really a cool survey of all the different singers. The songs are just so damned strong, and each guy had his own approach and it all worked. Sweepingly general? I don’t think so. Listen to this, you’ll see!
So, you know I’m a Rollins fan, and you’re gonna ask: how do I compare it? Well, on the one hand that’s a silly thing to think about because they were a band long before he joined in (a famous story on its own) and the stuff they did was fucking awesome and it was as a fan of theirs that he even joined the band. On the other hand, it’s not really fair to compare. I think they all had strengths. I mean, Keith Morris? Get outta here.
Then again, since this entire web site is named after Room 13 (see our ABOUT section at the top of this page), listen to Dez Cadena do that song here, and then Rollins do it on Damaged and, well, Henry’s influence was obvious. And that’s cool.
And finally, I can hear you saying, well, what’s the difference between this and The First Four Years, that other CD that collects the early stuff before Rollins? And my answer is: who fucking cares? Get them both and crank them. Both are bombs going off in your stereo. Both are absolutely essential.
Merry Christmas indeed!
* Bryan Migdol played drums on tracks 1-9. Robo played drums on 10-24.
Here’s a collection of some other cool loot I got for Christmas this year!
The Henry & Glenn books are ones I’ve always meant to get and never have, so these are my first two! They crack me up to no end. Truly some brilliant stuff.
I am inordinately proud of my new official Guiness ceramic mug. I’ve yet to pour a pint into it (oversiiiiight!!) but it looks to me like it’ll easily hold a full pint. Niiiice!
The Darth Vader and stormtrooper ceramic salt and pepper shakers are a hoot. I may join the Dark Side and put the salt in Darth Vader and the pepper in the stormtrooper, because that’s a pretty evil thing to do to people, right? Right! Haha.
I have been remiss as a big fan of Black Flag since it was 2014 and I was just getting this 1982 album for the first time now! There are 25 tracks on this CD, previously unreleased recordings of early songs with different singers before Henry Rollins joined the band in 1981. It’s gonna be sweet!
Goodnight Keith Moon is two things. First it’s an hilarious parody of the children’s classic storybook Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (a book that I have read to our kids a zillion times). The artwork and the wording of the story are a spot-on rendition. However, secondly, this is also a dark and morbid story involving Keith Moon’s corpse. Yeah. So, it’s by turns really freaking funny, and also a little sick!
Thanks to everyone for these gifts!
Black Flag ended (acrimoniously) in 1986. So one would not be wrong in asking, 27 years later, “what the FUCK is anyone doing releasing a new record under that name in 2013?”
I don’t have an answer for that question, but this record exists, and I bought it. New. Retail. Why? Because it has the four bars on it. Never, ever question the four bars.
And here, already, a lot of people would sneer. Question such blind allegiance. Mock me, even, for caring enough, even in this late stage, to give a new Flag record a spin.
It’s true. This thing has A LOT of detractors, everyone in a rush to be the first or the next to be able to pile on to the hate that this thing seems to have generated.
Just like every Black Flag record.
Here’s the thing. Black Flag’s career, even in their hey-day, was built as a giant Fuck You to all the holier-than-thou punkers who think they should be and do a certain thing. The sad part is, the targets at which all of this was aimed rarely realized it. All the skinheads freaked when Rollins let his hair grow long. They lost a lot of fans when they put out an entirely (and really very excellent) instrumental album. Even during the albums everyone claims to love, there are tracks that are just so obviously a WAKE THE FUCK UP to everyone stuck in a rut.
Black Flag was never afraid to let it all hang out. It was the fans who refused to change, who internalized one thing and then were offended when the next thing didn’t fit the pattern. This was one of the hardest working, most talented acts in punk for several years (late 70s to mid-80s) and they never once compromised. They followed their vision, and be damned to the people who didn’t like it. In fact, I think they fed off that hate and used it to make themselves even stronger.
So. It’s 2013, and Greg Ginn (twice, as will be explained), Ron Reyes and a drummer I didn’t know of until now decide it’s time to put out a record under the Black Flag name. Immediately they would have expected the backlash, the expectations, and the hate. It’s a moniker that carries weight, has a history of integrity and strength. How dare they? Shouldn’t they have left well enough alone? Read through the Amazon reviews. Lots of haters, out there. Haters who’ve had 27 years to sit in their mom’s basement and memorize every note and lyric of Damaged and My War. It’s sad.
I will give the haters the point that the album cover sucks. It’s stupid (sorry, Ron Reyes). My buddy Wilf said it looks like a reject from a series of proposed Green Day album covers, and I really can’t argue. That they didn’t get Raymond Pettibon (brother of Greg Ginn) to do it, after all those classic Flag covers, is a travesty and a sham. It’s also very telling that Pettibon provided the cover art for the newest Off! record released this year (2014), a band fronted by Keith Morris. In fact, he’s done every Off! album cover. So there.
What did I think of this record?
It’s a very good punk record.
I will admit that the hairs stood up on my arms when I heard those trademark Ginn riffs. You know that guitar, I know you do. It’ll slay you every fucking time. Ron Reyes is back, to his credit. He was the second singer in Black Flag, after the mighty Keith Morris left. He handles himself with reasonable aplomb here, even nailing the slightly unhinged parts. No, he’s not a Morris or a Rollins, but he never was. No reason to believe he’d be more now. Dale Nixon on bass, of course, is just Greg Ginn on bass under a different name. This is the first time he’s played bass on a Flag record since My War. And drummer Gregory Moore handles himself well enough on the traps, though he’s a victim of some really shitty production – the drums (honestly) do sound like crap. And in its own way, that’s punk, right? Just make it and move on. But in 2013, with all the technology available even on pre-boxed home computers, there’s really no excuse for such muddy sound.
But you know something, if this record had been released a few years after they broke up, after Rollins and everyone else called it quits, let’s say 1989 or so to let some time pass, this record would have been just fine. All the elements are here. The band lets it rip every chance they get. They chug heavily through some tracks, they switch between full and half-tempos, they play at full tilt. There are plenty of trademark Ginn solos, and there are many moments where tracks sound like they might just go crazy, just like in the old days.
Is this a return to form? No. This is mature musicians replicating the energy and learned tricks from half a lifetime ago. Is this a great Black Flag album? Only time will tell, but probably not. But like I said above, it’s a very good punk record. And it pleased me greatly. Let all the haters and detractors come get me, I couldn’t give a fuck. I listened to this and I rocked out to it and that’ll be enough for me.
And for all you holier-than-thou punkers out there, here’s the ultimate revenge:
This band is releasing another album this year and they’re calling it Victimology and that’ll be you. Victims. Because you’ve trapped yourself in thinking you know punk and anything outside your little box is shit. Fuck you.
This is Black Flag now, and Black Flag is still Fuck you.
Oh how I do love me some Black Flag. My brother-in-law got me this 3-song single (it’s listed as an EP, inexplicably) for Christmas. Hooray and thanks!
There’s much to be excited about here. First off, if my internet searchings are correct, there are three versions of TV Party on official release: the album version on Damaged (one of the best albums by anybody ever), a different version on the Repo Man movie soundtrack (I still need to get this), and this one from this single (er, EP, if you believe that).
It’s a joke track, no big deal. But it’s fun to hear a slight variation. It’s rougher-sounding, more like a demo. This is by far the longest track here (3:52).
Even better, this disc contains two other tracks that are (to my knowledge) not available anywhere else! Woo! I’ve Got To Run is a chugging blast of punk rock that builds, kicks your ass, and is on to the next thing in 1:45. And My Rules is another perfect-for-the-era track. It’s aggressive, it’s loud, it’s angry and it rocks. All in 1:10.
Honestly, these other two tracks shoulda been on Damaged. Maybe some day Ginn will release a Deluxe Edition…
Loved this disc. All 7 minutes of its entirety. Love love love.
Black Flag is one of those bands that completely rock my world. They were loud, obnoxious and crazy, but the music they made over the years was (and has remained) completely relevant and awesome. They had so much to say, so much they were angry about, so much talent and such a strong work ethic, and they said it all with huge guitar riffs, pounding rhythm and howling vocals. They saw through, and burned it at both ends, no question.
It seems completely logical to me that a tribute album would have to have been made for this seminal band’s work, so when I found this Initial Records release I snatched it up right away, knowing it would rock no matter what. And I was right.
Black Flag messed with a lot of genres. Oh sure, they were a hardcore punk band, but there were metal and classic rock influences in there as well and, as time went on, even some free-jazz jamming. I know. So hot.
Well, this tribute to the mighty Flag definitely focusses on their hardcore roots, with recent metal/hardcore bands offering up their punishing versions of some of the Flag’s hits. Recorded at top volume, these tracks offer screamo vocals, thunderous bass and drums, and guitars that give huge nods to Greg Ginn’s original genius.
My only complaint about this disc (and a small complaint it is, indeed) is how short it is. At 9 songs in less than 30 minutes, this could have been twice as long and covered many more of the band’s greatest tunes (like Clocked In, or Rise Above, the KMA’s theme song Room 13, and so many others), and it still would have rocked completely. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get.
My best advice when playing this record is to Turn It The Hell Up and get ready to rumble. Damn.
01 American Nothing – Depression
02 Anodyne – Life Of Pain
03 Burnt By The Sun – Drinking And Driving
04 Coalesce – Jealous Again
05 Converge – Annihilate This Week
06 Dillinger Escape Plan – Damaged I & II
07 Hope Conspiracy – Nervous Breakdown
08 Planes Mistaken For Stars – Police Story / Wasted
09 Playing Enemy – Six Pack
PS: According to the packaging, this compilation was originally released as a set of four separate Black On Black 7″ vinyls, each limited to 1000 copies and now out of print. So, you collectors out there might want to keep an eye out for these:
Volume I: Burnt By The Sun, Hope Conspiracy
Volume II: Planes Mistaken For Stars (including exclusive song: Depression)
Volume III: American Nightmare, Anodyne, Dillinger Escape Plan
Volume IV: Converge, Playing Enemy, Coalesce
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!!
Many Black Flag fans called this record unlistenable, total shite. Well, it’s this writer’s opinion that those people were actually not Black Flag fans. They were punk poseurs who should go and listen to Damaged until their little one-track brains finally finish the shriveling process begun at their birth.
I’m not knocking Damaged, mind you. It’s one of my Favourite Albums Of All Time. Seriously. But Black Flag was that, surely, and so much more than that, too. As time went on, they morphed and became a complete entity, growing into a tight unit of excellent musicians who could rip into a ten minute jazz-punk instrumental just as easily as they could blow your head off by playing Rise Above or Clocked In. Best of all, they really couldn’t have cared less about what people thought of what they were doing. If you can find something more in keeping with the supposed punk ethos than that, let me know.
Family Man is a spoken word disc for the first half, and an instrumental disc for the remainder. The spoken-word stuff is Rollins’ usual riffs on anger, frustration and violence. It’s punk/beat poetry, pure and simple. The tracks are short, but they pack one helluva wallop. The instrumental tracks would be perfect as the soundtrack to the end of America. Punk freak-outs and spacy riffs of alienation and disjointed citizenship that raise a healthy middle finger at a country the band had already written off as fat, boring and lost.
This disc especially shows Greg Ginn for the guitar genius he was at the time. Some of the sounds he strangles out the neck of his instrument are sonic proof that hard work and vision can pay huge dividends. It’s worth it to play this record for his work alone.
The nay-sayers can go get stuffed. Black Flag was an interesting, challenging band from the day they started until the day they ended, and this record stands up well in their discography. If you don’t play it because it forces you to think while you listen, that’s fine. But you’re missing out on one helluva lot, and you’re only further proving their point.
Many, varied things have been said about Black Flag. People will talk about the line-up changes, and argue which was better. They’ll say it didn’t matter who else was in the band because it was all about Greg Ginn. Or they’ll blame Rollins for the band’s eventual demise. And on, and on, and on…
Frankly, anybody who complains about any of it is missing the point of the Flag. They were straight-on, no compromise, fully engaged. They took the hits so you wouldn’t have to, and they did it with relish. It formed them, made them what they were. And they grew, too. They learned and changed and became, something the scene around them did not do. And so they took more hits, because “fans” didn’t like new directions. And the Flag’s response? A raised middle finger. Right on.
There was mixed reaction to My War. Some complained it wasn’t identical to Damaged, and was therefore inferior. Or that the band was just repeating themselves, or had become boring, or that the longer, heavier tracks ruined it all. And on, and on, and on…
I say bollocks to all of that. This record kicks ass. It’s dark, heavy and unrelenting. It’s angry, sure of itself, and unapologetic. It challenges the listener to pay attention, to question, to not just blindly accept and expect.
There isn’t a bad record in the entire Black Flag catalogue. Each one has its own strengths. My War takes you inside yourself, makes you look in the mirror and face whatever you find, head-on. It will become Your War. And you’ll be so much the better for it.