Culled from Bad Brains' late-'70s and '80s albums, the superb 2003 anthology, Banned in DC: Bad Brains' Greatest Riffs, offers a detailed sketch of the Washington group's early influential punk sound. Bridging the gap between rambunctious, lo-fi '70s hardcore, '80s metal, and even prefiguring '90s grunge, Bad Brains' fluid combination of punk and reggae, played from the hip with a loose, jazz-infused adroitness, remains as staggeringly mind-blowing today as it was on 1982's eponymous Bad Brains. For most casual listeners, starting, and perhaps even ending, with that 1982 eponymous album, will be the most logical and satisfying primer to the group's sound. However, the band kept raging throughout the '80s, reaching another apex with the equally as inspired, and more mature 1986 album I Against I. Although there have been several Bad Brains collections, Banned in DC works the best at fully encompassing the group's transformation over the years. Thoughtfully compiled by the group's longtime manager Anthony Countey, Banned in DC starts with Bad Brains' 1978 demo, Black Dots, and runs through their classic 1982 eponymous full-length debut, with stop-offs at 1983's Rock for Light, 1986's I Against I, and 1989's Quickness. Pretty much all of the major Bad Brains touchstones are here including, "Pay to Cum," "Regulator," "F.V.K. (Fearless Vampire Killers)," "Sail On," "With the Quickness," "I Luv I Jah," "Riot Squad," and others. Ultimately, no album can fully replace 1982's Bad Brains as the definitive entryway for neophyte punks on a pilgrimage to Bad Brains mecca, but Banned in DC goes the furthest toward laying out the complete picture of the group's own journey toward D.I.Y. enlightenment.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar