Bad Brains, Build a Nation

Bad Brains, Build a Nation

I challenge anyone to put Bad Brains’ Rock for Light and I Against I next to Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning, and then explain why the latter are megastars and the former spent the better part of 25 years in near-obscurity. The answer is not in the music, but in the mind of singer Paul “H.R.” Hudson: devout Rastafarian, erstwhile homophobe, borderline schizophrenic, and possibly the most powerful punk vocalist of all time. Beginning just after the band’s inception in 1978, H.R. and his brother, drummer Earl Hudson, pushed the Bad Brains to abandon hardcore, the genre that they are often credited with inventing, in favor of reggae. By the 1990s, creative differences and H.R.’s erratic behavior had broken up the band several times.

Though the original Bad Brains lineup has toured on and off for the past ten years, it has not recorded since 1989, and from Build a Nation, the reason why is obvious: H.R. is simply not interested in hardcore. He mumbles and whines his way through the album, and with a couple of exceptions, none of the rock tracks on Build a Nation receive vocal treatment that sounds more than perfunctory. From a man who was once capable of literally phoning in a moving performance — I Against I‘s “Sacred Love” was famously recorded over the telephone from inside prison — it’s a pathetic underachievement. The album’s five reggae numbers, though overproduced somewhat comically by Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, at least have real melodies and singing. By comparison, the band’s trademark hardcore comes off here as formless, unfinished, and sad.

(Megaforce Records -- P.O. Box 1955, New York, NY. 10113;; Bad Brains --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, September 13th, 2007. Filed under Reviews.

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