Build A Nation
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Mention the name Bad Brains to any music fan today and you will get a jaw-dropping response! Considered by some to be the holy grail' of punk rock, Bad Brains are one of the definitive American punk groups who garner the same respect as the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Ramones and the The Clash. The Bad Brains iconic legacy brought a new dimension to music by melding punk and reggae into a innovative style that has yet-to-be copied. And with this new studio album, Bad Brains essentially returns to their core wit a raw analog-driven chaos produced by MCA (aka Adam Yauch) of the Beastie Boys.Build a Nation has clearly brought out the best in the band. All original members, Dr. Know, Darryl Jennifer H.R. and Earl Hudson, deliver an explosive arsenal of riffage and bad ass bag of voices. Producer MCA recorded the album at the Beastie Boys' Oscilloscope studio in NYC. It is the first studio album released by the Oscilloscope laboratories, outside of Beastie Boys' albums. Sometimes reactionary, sometimes volatile, Bad Brains simply define the American punk experience.
These African-American Rastafarians didn't just originate DC hardcore in the late 1970s with their incredibly fast and brilliant "Pay to Cum" single; they set the bar impossibly high. That the group is not hugely millionaires-with-jets popular is one of the music industry's travesties. But they've always had as much a penchant for pissing off the shaven headed moshers at their shows (playing lengthy dub songs) as for giving them what they want (supersonic riffage). Much of the album employs the metal-tinged sound the group's been flirting with since they were on SST in the late '80s. A third of the tracks are reggae numbers, and while you're not going to sell off all your Culture LPs after hearing those, they are definitely serviceable. Build a Nation is not as great as the ROIR cassette, but it's the best album they've made in years, and shows the band in awesome form. This is thanks in no small part to the production efforts of the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch. As this is their second best-sounding proper album--the first being 1983's Ric Ocasek-produced Rock for Light--it's clear that the band should work only with their celebrity musician-fans at the helm from now on. --Mike McGonigal
Top Customer Reviews
OK, I've dissed Adam's production so what's left? Very little more. H.R. is older and softer on the vocals, check out his roots, rhyme, reggae on "Natty Dreadlocks 'pon the Mountain Top" it's cool. "Expand Your Soul" has got to be the only complete song on here, rock wise. "Universal Peace" the longest song on the album rock wise (3:04), "Roll On" reggae wise (4:04). "Pure Love" is a wasted :56 of the disc as you wait for more and it's already on the next selection. "Build A Nation" a two year old could have done the lyric arrangement for, sheez. Why bother? Also some of the tracks like "Until Kingdom Come" rock out but lyrically it does nothing for the selection. Sound like H.R. is just improvising lyrics and the beat goes on.
The rest of the band are great on the music. Dr. Know gets into Vernon Reid/Eddie Van Halen modes at times, wish they'd last longer though. Darryl, Earl, WHASSUP!
Glad that Bad Brains have reunioned (again-sorry I've lost count) for a 2007 EP (not LP, you can't call a 14 track/ less than 40 minutes CD an LP). H.R.'s voice softens with age. Lyric selection is still Gospel but vague (not getting the CD anywhere). Not one song out of 14 peaks 5 minutes and Adam Yauch should stick to his rugged-voice rapping with the Beasties. Yes I am glad to here them punk-out and reggae down but their metal length gems like "Re-ignition", "Soul Craft" and "God Of Love" are deeply missed here. Maybe in the next reunioned decade?
This album, in contrast, seems lifeless. Even on the harder, faster songs, it just
sounds like they are going through the motions, and have lost any fire or passion in their
Maybe I just didn't get what they were trying to do, but it's hard to believe that this is the
same band that recorded their classic albums.
If you're a new Bad Brains consumer you can save yourself time, trouble and the scree below by skipping "Build a Nation" and buying everything you can get your hands on that the Bad Brains did up to and including "I Against I". Then if you want to keep going, as so many of us have, you can come back and make the tough choice as to whether to drop cash on a really bad record made by a really great band.
Not to be ad hominem, but Mike must be off his McGonigal. This is maybe the worst-sounding of all Bad Brains records. Actually scratch that, this is *easily* the worst-sounding BB record. Even the not-always-easy-to-enjoy "God of Love" has some great, clean moments of truth, see 'Justice Keepers'.
And it seems pretty clear we have to park a fair bit of the blame for this total washout with that Beastly Boy. Do you know any other band that layers on way too many vocal effects? Do you? I bet you do. And that's fine for them, they've done well. Problem is that here you're trying to bottle up, boost, or god knows what perhaps the most out of control and in his day electric frontman punkrock ever produced. Not the brightest idea. But you know, we weren't in the booth, maybe the band was like 'do that thing you do on all your band's albums.' But, you know, I kind of doubt it.
Another citizen reviewer noted that HR seemed out of synch with the rest of the band -- well dang right, HR and Dr. Know don't seem to have been on the same wavelength in maybe twenty years. In the late eighties/early nineties some of us had to endure going to see the Bad Brains and seeing that guy from Shredded Steel on the microphone. But in those occasional times of re-union since then, the band has found some way forward, at least a couple of tracks worth saving from the latter-day output, mostly on the basis of the ever-expanding scope of Dr. Know's guitaring genius.
Our citizen reviewer noted the tempo difference between vocals and the rest. Up until this LP, the Bad Brains almost entirely stopped playing fast on record commencing with "Quickness" all the way back in like 1989 or so. Dr. Know exploited and reinvented the NY-hardcore style crunch breakdown to his own ends on that record -- it was heavy, but it certainly wasn't fast. Fast-forward through some similar type stuff over the next however long and arrive in 2006 or so. Someone -- someone in the band? Ad Rock? the landlord? -- had the idea that for this particular get-together it was time to take it back to Pay to Cum. The kids are buying Fiend Club t-shirts at Hot Topic after all.
Ok, no problem, max song length goes from 7 minutes back to 3 and the average is closer to 2. But - shocker - they seem to have had no luck selling the idea to HR. He farted at the buffet table, just wouldn't cooperate. Friends those of us who have occasionally checked in by remote on the BB drama have heard that is what the man do: so you have to let him do what he does. Was the answer to his total discarding of the marketing plan a big fat freaking reverb overdose? No friends, it was not. What was the answer? Hell if I know. Probably scrap the f'ing plan and hit old Ric Ocasek or maybe Vernon Reid up for a loan if you can't make the rent that month.
But I'm sure everybody did the best they could, sometimes things just don't work out. I guess it just stings a little more for us little people watching another creaky lurch from the beloved, troubling Bad Brains, so great, so never got the radio hit they needed to retire on.
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After soooo many break ups, these brothers have come back to build a nation without missing a beat!Read more