Black Flag

Damaged (SST ‘81) Rating: A-
One of the defining documents of the early ‘80s L.A. hardcore punk scene, this is the first Black Flag album with tattooed lunatic Henry Rollins (later the leader of the Rollins Band) at the mike, and though technically he’s not much of a singer he gets his points across loud and clear. He’s pissed off and he’s bored and he hates a lot of things (almost as much as your parents will undoubtedly hate him), though he loves his T.V. and his beer. Actually, if you know the straight-laced Rollins at all you’d know that he hates beer culture (pilloried in “Six Pack”) and slackerdom (satirized in “T.V. Party”), though probably not as much as he hates authority figures (“Rise Above,” a fist pumping anthem), cops (“Police Story"), or most of all, himself. The suicidal lyrics of “What I See,” the depressed “Depression,” and the self-loathing “Room 13” probably influenced many a later angst ridden grunge group, but not as much as the band’s sound, which is dirty, raw, loud, abrasive, and fast (except for parts of songs here and there, “Life of Pain” for example). Behind Rollins, band leader, songwriter, and cool noise guitarist Greg Ginn adds gloriously unhinged guitar runs, highlighting songs such as “Thirsty and Miserable” and “Depression,” to cite but two examples. The album at times falters somewhat in the songwriting department, as several songs are overly repetitive, but Damaged (released on Ginn’s incredibly influential SST record label) still hits with an immense overall impact and an unwavering intensity.

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