Black Flag's most experimental album, Family Man features one LP side of spoken word performances from Henry Rollins and another of instrumental music from the late-Flag lineup of Greg Ginn (guitar), Kira (bass), and Bill Stevenson (drums). Although occasionally chilling in its intensity, the spoken word material, much like the between-song recitations of fellow Californian Jim Morrison (with whom Rollins sometimes shares a vocal similarity here) on the live Doors albums, mostly sounds juvenile and dated after the fact. That said, Family Man's spoken word tracks, along with Jello Biafra's recordings with the Dead Kennedys, can largely be credited with bringing "alternative" spoken word to a larger audience who were either unaware of, or could not relate to, the Patti Smith/downtown New York scene. Unlike the solo Rollins tracks, the instrumental music is still challenging and vibrant. Although sounding at times like a high-school garage band attempting to perform Rush covers, Ginn and company play with a sense of desperation and punk rock fury that makes much of the music positively electrifying. Similar in spirit to the less poppy tracks on Hüsker Dü's contemporary Zen Arcade, side two of Family Man is characterized by its emotional purity. Ginn reveals himself as a refreshingly and brilliantly free improviser and his playing should serve as an inspiration and lesson to later "punk" bands who value technical proficiency over rockin' out. Overall, Family Man is an essential, if atypical, part of the Black Flag canon and should appeal to fans of Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, or the New York "noise" scene as well.
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AllMusic Review by Pemberton Roach