CD Review

Bad Brains, Build a Nation (Megaforce/Oscilloscope)

As unbelievable as it may seem, some people don't like D.C. hardcore. Don't they realize that means the de facto dismissal of Bad Brains, the best hardcore punk band that wasn't really a hardcore punk band at all? From a critical perspective, Bad Brains are notable for applying chaotic intelligence to punk and reggae (genres too often maligned for being unsophisticated), and have a powerful influence across the boards of modern rock music. Their signature songs (like "Pay to Cum" and "Banned in D.C.") and their SST release I Against I are punk hallmarks; Build a Nation doesn't so much revisit this ground as allude to those works.

The opening track, "Give Thanks and Praises," invokes the pedal-pumping cauldron of nü-metal (barf!), but remember, friends, Bad Brains are circularly and indirectly responsible for that modern abhorrence. "Jah People Make the World Go Round" is straight-up heavy metal, while "Pure Love" is a nugget-sized burst of speed metal that ends in chewy funk, an appropriate precursor to the album's most excellent track, trippy reggae slow jam "Natty Dreadlocks 'Pon the Mountain Top." "Jah Love" and "Roll On" are also satisfyingly, classically cut from the dub-reggae tradition. Most of the tracks on this incredibly gratifying record (produced by Adam Yauch, the graying Buddhist Beastie Boy) serve the band's interests the way the band's members serve Jah. It's rutted, sure, but it's Bad Brains: You don't expect your sweetly fucked-up junkie brother to come home every night with both his shoes on, and you can't beg consistency from a band known as total weirdos in a kingdom of the same.

 
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