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Black on Black: A Tribute to Black Flag

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I prefer hardcore music above all else. Hardcore sounds like punk rock (not the crap on the radio) at light speed. Hardcore is usually more aggressive and socially conscious than punk. It’s not all about anarchy and destroying yourself.

Black Flag (BF) is considered by many as “a” – if not “the” – hardcore punk band. They formed in the late 70’s during the heyday of punk rock and continued into the 80’s, spawning many fans and followers. While BF had many lineups and singers, they’re most famous and popular version was fronted by Henry Rollins. Yeah that Henry Rollins, the hardcore punk guy that was in a Gap commercial a few years back. I prefer the band’s work with the other singers that can be found on the album Black Flag: The First Four Years. Most notably the bands original singer Keith Morris that went on to front the excellent Circle Jerks.

This tribute album features covers from some solid contemporary bands like Most Precious Blood and Bleeding Through. I’m always a fan of bands that cover “flawed” songs. I consider a vast majority of Rollins era BF to be flawed. I was cautiously optimistic that these covers would be far better than the source material considering most bands would opt to cover “his” stuff.

From the first howl to the last scream, this album is an exercise in boredom. Each band sounds nearly indistinguishable. Like them or hate them, Black Flag at least had a specific identity. There isn’t a single bright spot on this album. There isn’t a single song that I had to listen to 15 times in a row and not get sick of. To say I was extremely disappointed is an understatement. It seems like the bands put zero effort into their covers. Some of the bands have demonstrated with their original material that they can play great music. How sad.

If you’re eager to discover real hardcore, start with the innovators of New York Hardcore like Warzone, Agnostic Front, and Cause For Alarm. You can also check out other great examples of different Hardcore styles with bands like DYS, Madball, Pitboss, One Life Crew, F Minus, and 25 Ta Life. All great bands, all great starting points for new listeners, they are shimmering examples of the hardcore genre.

I’d only recommend this album to the BF fan that needs everything related to the band. Like Rollins era BF, I didn’t like this album, so perhaps that’s a plus to the fans. Plunk down the cash if you wish, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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About Rob Faraldi