There are records that become vital to you the second you hear them. The first note, that first lyric- stays with you. Something about it just does something to you, and you seek that same feeling in everything you listen to. This record that becomes your world can be one from decades ago that you’ve only just found, or it can be something brand new. It doesn’t matter. With this, time doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you find it or rather, it finds you.
Anyone and everyone could talk about what the greatest Punk record of all time is or who the greatest bands are. It’s all a matter of choice. Some people don’t dig the Ramones (don’t ever trust these people) and some people might think that bands like Dead Boys served no purpose (again, don’t trust these people either!) Every band has made an impression. Some did it with one record then disappeared whilst others have lasted and are still being cited as an influence to this day. Again, it’s all choice.
I haven’t gone back and listened to old records I love and written about them in a while. Whilst seeking something new to listen to, I keep gravitating back to Bad Brains, so I’m taking it as a sign that I need to write about their debut record (The Yellow Tape if you want to go that way, it’s your call.) What Bad Brains did on their debut record is something truly remarkable. They merged two hugely vital styles of music- Hardcore Punk and Reggae and made something that just blows you away. Sure, it isn’t for those who may want lovey dovey soft songs, but it’s for those who are frustrated, who want change and are on the outside looking in. Outside of society but aren’t all too mad about it. Bad Brains will ALWAYS be one of the most influential bands of all time. When the record came out in 1982, many were shocked that the band members were African American. When you think about that now, you think “Why the fuck would it matter what they look like or where they are from?!” But sadly, that’s what it was like and to a degree it still happens to this day doesn’t it. All too many times we will see someone express their concerns for someone who is a certain race doing a certain style of music, and they will question it. But here’s the thing- music doesn’t have a race, gender, religion, or sexuality. Bands like Bad Brains are the prime example of music just going beyond labels and whatnot. Their debut record was ahead of its time, and to this day we still haven’t heard anything quite like it. Attitude and Banned In D.C. are just an example of two of the best songs ever created, and if you’re looking for something else to smack you in the kisser then blast out Supertouch/Shitfit as loud as you can. The whole record is a Hardcore masterpiece.
H.R. has to be one of best frontmen of all time. There’s no one else who had that energy and power, and when you mix that with Darryl, Earl and Dr. Know- then you are going to get a wealth of trouble. They all played their part in creating one of the best and most important records of all time. Leaving Babylon is one of those songs that just play and escape the world; it’s got this power that isn’t found in anything else. Some songs we have H.R. screaming his lungs out, then we have him on this song pouring his heart out. If this song and the lyrics don’t break your heart, then you’re not hearing it right. It is one of the strongest songs of all time, and it’s political without it being all in your face. It perfectly shows injustice, and sadly it is something that still exists. This song, and the whole record are still so relevant.
Bad Brains are made up of some of the best musicians you will ever hear, and the fact that you can pick up on their distinctive sound, and their own individual style instantly full justifies why this band are nothing short of influential. They go beyond being a band that merged Hardcore Punk and Reggae. They go beyond anything in music could ever compare to; they gave us something that will never ever die out. Their debut record is easily one of the greatest records of all time, but when you go deep into their discography and even solo work, you will truly see that everything they did was just a mind-blowing experience. The way they mess with your head on songs like F.V.K. and are then able to just mellow you out on I Love I Jah (contender for my favourite Bad Brains song ever) is just a testament to their greatness.
Bad Brains are a band that I’ll never tire of listening to or talking about. They’re one of those bands that have evidently brought people together and created a community with their sound. When I see bands like Ho99o9 (who I fucking love SO much and do amazing covers of Bad Brains songs) I can see another band who will have exactly the same impact Bad Brains did on a new generation. Bad Brains created a monster with their debut record, and that monster will never sleep nor will it fade away.