Black Flag

What The...

Written by: PP on 27/12/2013 21:52:26

"What The..." is likely meant to depict the reaction amongst older hardcore fans learning for the first time that there's a new Black Flag album out, their first one in 28 years. Instead, the supposedly clever album title backfires and, at least in this scribe's head, reads as "what the fuck is this shit?". In the 28 years that Black Flag has been gone, hardcore as a genre has evolved. It has been twisted and turned, interpreted and reinterpreted again. It has died and it has been revitalized multiple times. What today constitutes as hardcore is a far cry from what it was during the 80s, when Black Flag reigned as one of the pioneering and most revered bands in the genre.

Yet on "What The...", Black Flag (Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn, Gregory Moore, Dale Nixon) seem oblivious to any and all developments within hardcore as a style of music and stubbornly try to bring something back that hasn't been relevant for soon 30 years now for a reason. Granted, Black Flag has always been more about the feeling and the original hardcore rebellion and ideology than most bands, hence they've never been known as a particularly tight band on record, and their albums have always been characterized by their loosely played guitars and gnarly vocals (here delivered by Ron Reyes). But especially with the advent of the internet, the 80s feeling of hardcore has become less important as different bands are no longer restricted to the sound of their local cities, and have mixed and matched influences liberally from all corners of the scene. This is a key aspect Black Flag have failed to grasp on this record.

Yes, "What The..." still features groove-laden, authentic old school hardcore, perhaps delivered in slightly more technical format than in the past, but with 22 tracks that all feature more or less a variation of the same groovy riff used on all of them? It gets old very quickly, especially because songwriting wise Black Flag anno 2013 simply aren't a match even to modern revivalist bands like OFF!, whose two albums are leaps and bounds better than anything on offer here. What's more, this whole ordeal seems more inspired by the feud with the other Black Flag - Flag!, featuring Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, and Bill Stevenson from the early days - than of need to write another album. It's not terrible, but the feeling I'm left after 22 new Black Flag songs is merely confusion as to why it was necessary to resurrect Black Flag after 28 years of inactivity, at the same time as another version of the lineup is doing the same thing? In any case, at 22 tracks there's way too much filler material on the record; "What The..." could've benefited enormously from being cut down into half by selecting only the good cuts like "The Chase", "The Bitter End" and similar tracks. Not catastrophically bad, but very disappointing indeed.

6

Download: My Heart's Pumping, The Bitter End, The Chase
For the fans of: Circle Jerks, OFF!
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.11.2013
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