Bad Brains: Build a Nation (Megaforce)

CD Review

Jul 4, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Speaking of artists who don't get enough credit! Bad Brains were a vital part of the American Hardcore and Punk movements, though it seems they rarely get the attention of, say, Black Flag or Germs. Singer HR was the greatest frontman to ever come out of that scene and also was one of the most invigorating vocalists, his voice an expansive instrument, percussive in its growl and creepily soulful in its more quiet moments. Guitarist Dr. Know was one of the movement's finest shredders, gracefully bridging the band's move into more Metal sounds in the late '80s, something mimicked by countless others during that period. They even opened horizons with their constant dabbling in Reggae (which was never quite as good as their Rock attack). Bad Brains has been held together by a pubic hair for the past 20 years or so, with different versions of the band hitting the road. But Know and HR always seem to eventually find their way back to each other. Build a Nation is another stab at keeping the old crew together and it is mostly a pretty accurate re-creation of the band's sound during the Metal/Punk I Against I era. But HR sounds decidedly unfocused on a lot of tracks, which makes them lose their impact — a less intense HR makes for a less-than-spectacular Bad Brains album (I'll go ahead and blame producer Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, whose job it was to get the most out of his singer). There's leopard-paced Punk, trilling, rhythmic-based Metal and, unfortunately, a few Reggae tracks (though, to their credit, that's the one department they've actually gotten better at over the years). It's not the return to form that Bad Brains fans were probably hoping for, but perhaps that doesn't matter. They have a new album out, which means they're going on tour. And, though it's been a few years since I've seen them (about 15 to be exact), catching HR and Co. on a stage is always an electrifying experience. (MB) Grade: C-