Friday, January 29, 2010

Review #54: Black Flag - In My Head (1985)


Punk Rock
Hardcore, Post-Punk
SST Records
37 Minutes (Long)
My Rating: 7/8

Black Flag was a hardcore punk band (often considered the first of its kind) from California. The band existed for about 10 years and was notorious for it's ever-changing style, non-stop touring, and confrontational performances. However, this was the last full-length studio LP the band ever made. It has a lot more experimental elements to it than earlier recordings. They album itself seems to be a neurotic experience. It's also the last Black Flag record with the mid-'80s lineup with Kira Roessler (bass) and Bill Stevenson (drums). A lot of earlier fans dislike this record, because it sounds so different. Some think it sounded like a bad attempt at heavy metal (an accusation that's been going on since the days of "My War"). Well, we'll see about that...

1. Paralyzed
Opens with two screams fading in. Medium tempo. The lyrics seem to be about paranoia, feelings of entrapment, and not being able to let go of negative feelings.

2. The Crazy Girl
Really weird beat in the verse section. The whole song (as well as the damn album) is filled with guitar-leads at every turn. The chorus section briefly speeds up to a more conventional tempo before slowing down again. "My Target Is Your Eyes" -- this song makes me want to have sex... ual intercourse.

3. Black Love
This song is about "black love"... I guess it's a really twisted version of love. How is it so twisted? I guess we just have to make it up ourselves, 'er something. Hypnotizing lead-guitar swing about your ears and your mind like little ghosts floating around a room.

4. White Hot

The previous song was black, so this song is white, I guess. Gotta balance your colors out, children. Anyways, it's pretty slow, like most of the songs on the record so far. During the verses, the riff is awesome. The chorus section is even cooler with a very bass-and-lead driven section. Beautiful solo during the middle of the song. The lyrics suggest it as some sort of psycho love song (like the previous song, but more detailed). Best song on the record.

5. In My Head

Very complex lead-guitar. First thing I noticed on the track. Hell, you could say that about everything on this record. The lyrics are an extremely intricate description of insanity and paranoia. End of Side 1.

6. Drinking and Driving

A fast song. Lyrically similar to "Thirsty and Miserable" -- a song about a confused alcoholic who drinks his life away and convinces himself that he's living a good life. I heard similarities to "Black Coffee" as well, musically. They made a music video for this song.

7. Retired at 21

Another song on the album that I really like. Really fucking cool riff. This one is pretty fast, as well. Lyrics about some lucky kid with a gun who seems pretty content and gets retired at 21. Love the vocals on this song. One of the best Black Flag songs ever written.

8. Society's Tease

Great, literate lyrics about the flaws of society, the lies within it, and the problems it breeds. Fast tempo, once again. Longest song on the album.

9. It's All Up to You

The grand finale. One of the highlights of the record, alongside "Retired at 21" and "White Hot". Awesome riff. The lyrics are about a desire of freedom from civilization and society. Kira Roessler supplies the backing vocals, which all sound really good. Amazing guitar solos. I like to think of it as the final moment of contemplation in the Black Flag canon.

This was the last original LP that Black Flag released before they broke up. Their final performance was in July of 1986. Though they would continue to release a string of EPs after their breakup, at this point, they had already left behind an epic legacy. From the early punk of "Nervous Breakdown" to the raging hardcore of "Damaged" to the metal experimentation of "My War" to this, they really were one of the greatest hardcore bands ever. This LP is one of their most unique works. The first half is mostly made up of slow songs, and the second half is dominated by the faster stuff. The album has an avant-garde, schizophrenic feel to it. Fits the title (and the song that the title comes from). Many fans were and still are put off by this one, but personally, I love it.


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