Saturday, May 1, 2010


Greg Ginn's first post-Black Flag release was a furious slab of rock and roll revisionism combined with hardcore aesthetics, further devolving the ideas he had strived so hard to incorporate into Black Flag's latter-period albums while at the same time showcasing his growing confidence as a one-of-a-kind guitarist capable of considerable avant-garde six-string abuse heavily indebted to simple blues progressions and regressions. "Getting Even" tears through 14 songs in 30 minutes, all backed by a Ginn himself on bass and a drum machine without any loss of power, instead providing something of an "industrial" feel to the record, a mechanical rhythm section capable of producing the sounds Ginn had sought to spotlight in Black Flag. The guitar was always meant to be the focal point and on "Getting Even" (how eerily appropriate a name is that?) there's nothing else that captures your attention-this is Greg's show, 100%, and if you don't like it or can't understand it then fuck you, you were never supposed to be here anyway.
What's most interesting to me concerning Greg Ginn is how the interest in purer rock and roll guitar forms began to manifest itself as the recordings advanced. Rather than improve as a guitarist across his recorded tenure Ginn sought to devolve, to explore the outer fringes via an appearance of decaying ability, a regression into anti-learning where the only thing that improved was speed. On certain Black Flag tracks ("Bastard in Love," "Slip it In," "The Bars") there was an acknowledgement of rock and roll diction as well as an interpretation of it but on others ("Can't Decide," "The Process of Weeding Out") there was an outright rejection of it, a hatred for form or structure or phrasing that manifested itself in the guise of totally whacked out meandering solos more reminiscent of free jazz or psychedelia. Whether Ginn was aware of this at the time or was simply going all out is a matter of debate; not in question is the awesome display of passionate talent in his guitar playing. He's been considerably underrated as a soloist.
"Getting Even" did not seek to establish Ginn as a new sort of guitar hero. While there was certainly a shitload of amazing axe-slinging across its short runtime it was more of an encapsulation of his contributions to the hardcore idealism. It serves more as a "fuck you" to the idea of Black Flag as an institution as well as the idea that Black Flag was the work of a group as opposed to an individual. All the philosophies of Black Flag exist within the walls of "Getting Even." It's not difficult to imagine any of these tracks as BF songs that could have been. Ginn's vocals, however, while not ineffective, lack the charisma or force of someone like Keith Morris or Henry Rollins. Morris in particular could have screamed the shit out of these songs, most being anti-authority rants or superficial explorations of the idea of self-worth. There's an incredible pessimism to "Getting Even" that comes across beautifully, an unbridled rage and seething anger that brims to surface as the album grinds on.
Ginn would never be more focused than this. Later solo efforts began to hone in on instrumental prowess (or the idea of it) or overwhelming volume as opposed to concise song-driven statements. The guitar playing here is exemplary and the bastardization of simple rock and roll was never more ripping and awesome than on ferocious tracks like "Kill Burn Fluff," "You Drive Me Crazy," and "Torn." Similarly Ginn ripped through the notion of hardcore on anti-authority devastators "Pig MF" and "Yes Officer." And his sense of humour was shown to be firmly intact on album opener "I've Changed," which may as well have read as a instigation effort towards the Black Flag faithful who would see Ginn crucified before buy one of his solo records.
Greg Ginn is one my favorite guitarists and someone i've taken an immense amount of inspiration from throughout my own career as a guitarist. To call "Getting Even" anything less than a masterpiece would be selling it short. This is punk rock ferocity and DIY idealism fused together in a caduceus of integrity. This is the template; this is a vision. Whatever Ginn chose to explore afterwards this record is still there. Don't ignore it.

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