Monday, October 20, 2008

Punk on Monday: Black Flag, 'Nervous Breakdown'

When John Lydon sang about being the Antichrist in 1977 he was sowing the seeds for the legions of punk followers in Britain but also gave birth to a new sub genre of punk rock unique to North America. Heavier and faster than its British cousin, Hardcore Punk seemed to owe as much to metal as anything else blending the raw simplicity of the Ramones with atonal and microtonal guitar solos and frequent tempo shifts.

Steven Blush’s documentary film American Hardcore describes three bands - Black Flag, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat - as the most important and influential in the genre. California’s Black Flag are perhaps the most influential of all, primarily due to their tireless promotion of a DIY ethic and a herculean touring schedule which never seemed to end. Greg Ginn was primary songwriter and sole continuous member through multiple personnel changes, he cited ‘Black Sabbath’ as one of his favourite bands and his lyrics dabbled in the mixture of isolation, neurosis, poverty, and paranoia.

Nervous Breakdown was their first 7" EP, released in 1978, and remains one of the salient points of the genre. All the best bits about punk are present and correct, the singer barking like a rabid dog, a ramshackle frantic rhythm and a ludicrously cheap guitar sound.

Black Flag add their own particular stamp with the addition of needle point bass and
and the ever intensely physical presence in the drum department. The main guitar riff is an experience like undertaking a big sweaty stage dive into a heaving mosh and being tossed around unmercifully for the tracks two minute duration.

Where to find: The First Four Years (1983)

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