Monday, April 12, 2010

BLACK FLAG "1982 DEMO" (No Label)

The most widely traded Black Flag bootleg, with good reason. This was more or less what Greg Ginn intended as the follow-up to "Damaged," an incredible set of songs that later found homes among three different albums, recorded by an outstanding line-up including Dez Cadena on second guitar and future Danzig drummer Chuck Biscuits. The two guitar incarnation of Black Flag had long been Ginn's dream and the sonic immensity it adds to things is captivating. This is BF at their most unhinged, chaotic and totally out of control, on a self-charted path towards psychological obliteration and weighed down by nervousness, disgust, dissatisfaction and sheer frustration. I love the rawness of this recording as well-Ginn's guitar sounds fucking white hot electric, totally alive and cackling with insane, ultra-distorted glee. It's the loudest instrument here and it's a joy to hear him go off on all these songs. Some of his solos would receive a tiny bit of rewriting and cleaning up for their actual album appearances but for the most part they're as is, and they're a wasted, shredding mess.
It's hard to assess if things would have been different had this album been released rather than "My War." There was certainly a lot of rocking material on this demo but i don't know if Ginn would have attained the goal of pissing everyone off if this one had dropped instead. It almost seems as though Black Flag had to go through all of their legal difficulties to get where they wanted to be-had they simply recorded this in the midst of it all it certainly would have lacked some of the defeated bitterness present through all the later work and "My War" especially.
As good as this demo is, there are a few problems. Chuck Biscuits was not the right drummer for the Flag-he was just too damn busy and too light on touch. His energy is actually a detriment to "Can't Decide," "Nothing Left Inside" and especially "I Love You," where he more or less solos over the entire song and can't ever get it to the simple groove that Bill Stevenson took it to so effortlessly and memorably. Rollins too is a little off the mark here-he was still working on ideas and delivery throughout this set and some things are a little more halted and forced than they ended up being. Otherwise it's an epic set, containing some of Ginn's best guitar work (and certainly his best guitar SOUND) and a great set of songs. Tracklisting is:
What Can You Believe
Yes, I Know
Slip It In
Modern Man
My War
Black Coffee
Beat My Head Against The Wall
Can't Decide
I Love You
Nothing Left Inside/Scream

The best part about this demo is that it's widely available-you shouldn't have any trouble coming across it. Totally recommended as food for thought, as well as to fans of apocalyptic guitar destructionism.

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