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Old 04-18-2006, 02:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
White Lies
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Default Black Flag - Damaged

Black Flag - Damaged

Track Listing:

1. Rise Above
2. Spray Paint
3. Six Pack
4. What I See
5. TV Party
6. Thirsty and Miserable
7. Police Story
8. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie
9. Depression
10. Room 13
11. Damaged II
12. No More
13. Padded Cell
14. Life of Pain
15. Damaged 1

Band Members on Damaged:

Henry Rollins - Vocals
Greg Ginn - Lead Guitar
Dez Cadena - Guitar
Chuck Dukowski - Bass
Robo - Drums

Damaged was Black Flag's first full length album, released in 1981 on Greg Ginn's own SST record label. It is also the debut for Henry Rollins as vocalist, following on from Keith Morris, Chavo whatever, and Dez Cadena (on guitars now). It is regarded as a seminal punk album, and influenced countless hardcore bands in the 80s, very few of which got anywhere the heights reached by this album.


The first song on Damaged gives a good indication of what's to follow; Rise Above is a ferocious, angry opening to the album, and any doubts fans had about Henry Rollins vocal capabilities can be dispelled, as his performance on this is excellent. The guitar when it kicks in is awesome, a messy sludgy riff which sets the bleak, alienated mood that'll be evident throughout the rest of this hardcore masterpiece. The song regularly breaks into the shouted "Rise Above, Rise Above", and had all the makings for the hardcore anthem it would become. The guitar solo in Rise Above is scratchy, it's messy, it's grimy - but it is awesome, and this type of guitar work would become a trademark of Greg Ginn's on this album, and in the years to come. Rise Above is one of the best songs on the album.

Following on from a fairly pointless second song, Spray Paint, is Six Pack. The intro consists of fragmented drums with quiet guitar 'n' bass in the background, set to Rollins boasting about his awesome six pack. The song follows a similar pattern to Rise Above, with the verse broken up by a shouted "Six Pack", then going into the chorus. This gets the album back on track, and leads us to What I See. This song has a cool bassline, and Rollins' brutal vocals - "I don't wanna live, I wish I was dead". Thankfully, he stayed alive for the remainder of the album. In fact, he's still alive today.

And track 5 is a song which annoys me to the max power. Sure, TV Party is a great song, with very funny vocals that any Black Flag fan would recognise in an instant. But it is entirely out of place on Damaged. Damaged is a angry, passionate hardcore album. What is this goofy song doing here, interrupting the unadulterated aggression of the rest of my album! It's a catchy song, but they should've left it on the TV Party EP.

Onto Thirsty and Miserable, and we're back to furious vocals, sludgy guitars and pounding drum lines. This is one of my favorites on the album, and Rollins is particularly good here. And Ginn has some of his crazy experimental solos, it's a ****ing awesome song. Police Story continues in much the same vane. Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie begins with a steady drumbeat set to Rollins' vocals, then everything enters and we're back to the same style of the two previous songs. Lyrically, the song has more references to dying. It's all very depressing.

Speaking of which, the next song is called Depression. This song is really fast, really in-your-face, and lyrically again it's very bleak. Rollins sounds like a man possessed, roaring over the noisy fast clutter of instruments in the background. More scratchy goodness from the guitarists towards the end - this song is really great. They just keep on comin', and Room 13 is no different. Rollins' impassioned shout of "keep me alive" continues the references to being on the verge of death. The guitars in this song wail and drone in and out of the music, and this is one of my favorite songs on the record.

Damaged II has a cool intro, but like so much before, it quickly erupts into an angry rant. No More is an great song which builds up with Robo getting progressively faster and faster on drums unaccompanied, until the song goes back to the traditional roared vocals and dirty abrasive guitar riffs. This is a sweet song, my only complaint is that the drum intro lasts a little long maybe. There's no such wait on Padded Cell - it very quickly gets into a fast, heavy song with Rollins once more bellowing over the top. Some neat guitar work can be found underneath the noisy mess again.

The penultimate song is Life of Pain. This song doesn't exactly look on the bright side of life. You'd never have guessed it, would you? Rollins' continuedly roars "Self Destruct", in between a long, slow opening with droning grimy guitars reminiscent of Flipper, and a similar outro.

The final song is called Damaged 1, and its the longest on the album at a whopping 3 minutes 50 seconds. This song is much slower than most others on the album, but it's the now familier mix of sexy noisy distorted guitars, a simple steady drumbeat, and Rollins' excellent vocals, conveying the sense of frustration and depression that are ever-present on this album. It's a decent conclusion to a fine album.


I'm giving this album 9.5/10. This album is about as good as hardcore punk gets, and apart from a few minor flaws (Spray Paint, TV Party ruining the flow of the album), it's a masterpiece. If you want aggressive and nihilistic music, look no further.
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