Bad Brains

Live

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This band should have 12 live albums out by now. The greatest live rock & roll band of all time has made but one studio LP that reflected this ungodly ferociousness, and that was cassette-only. Frankly, if you don't have that tape -- the self-titled ROIR tape, still the biggest seller in ROIR history -- don't think, buy, and be blown away. This is the second record that will astonish even their oldest of fans. Strangely, this documents the 1987 I Against I Bad Brains (doesn't say where it was recorded, but it sounds like the Ritz), when they were at their nadir as a live band. The 1979-1983 Bad Brains were so vastly superior it's too bad, but Live is still such a sonic wonder, an aural pasting that could turn even Nobel scientists into stammering ninnies, that it's not to be missed. Clearly one of the hot live albums of all time, it manages this with a bass mixed so low as to be faint, and a guitarist (the great Dr. Know) who'd monkeyed around with his sound so much he'd completely lost the wicked edge he was known for. With all these faults, Live is such a stunner because the basic inimitable qualities are still here: the unbelievable overload attack, the crashing power riffs, the stop-start precision marveled at by every casual listener who ever came across them, the explosive surges, the awesome musicians, the breathtaking exhilaration rush, and most of all, the irreplaceable singer H.R.

In a sub-rock culture that’s justifiably made a demigod out of H.R. fan Iggy Pop, not even Pop himself at his Stooges prime was a match for the complete madness of H.R. The shocking wild abandon, the belly of the beast ascending, the manic whirl of syllables whooshing by, the animal screams, shouts, and alternate hums of this frenzied larynx (not even Pop and Little Richard could go from a full-throated scream to a quiet, calm tone so fast) deal body blows. Really, it's impossible to describe the fury, the might, the indestructible force of the Bad Brains, without hearing. It's not a matter of subjective taste; even those who don't like this will concede they've never heard anything like it before, nor are they likely to again. This BB lineup was a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. Even the bandmembers themselves know this, as they tried to reunite the quartet in April 1989 without success. You just gotta hear these versions of "At the Movies" and "I," so burning it's dizzying, so alive you can almost see H.R.'s feet hit at the end of the back-flip he always did to end the song (a perfectly timed sight that dazzled every audience). Never mind that much of side two features lesser later tracks; when you blast off, you won’t care for how long. This must be what it's like to be on speed. Ignore the super Rock for Light and almost commercial I Against I, good as they are. Go straight for that ROIR cassette and this. And watch out for flies and swirling debris while your mouth is hanging open for a half hour.

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