Black Flag

Who's Got the 10½?

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Black Flag's second live album, recorded at a 1985 Portland show with the Kira/Anthony Martinez rhythm section, is about what you'd expect the late period of the band to sound like live. A couple of older songs crop up -- "Slip It In" and "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" are transformed into a great 15-minute medley with Henry Rollins getting in some audience-baiting that explains the album title -- but mostly this is from Loose Nut, its songs sounding generally better here than on that release. Rollins is in typically fiery form throughout; whatever dissatisfactions with the band he spoke of in future years evidently didn't keep him from forgetting how to put on a show. It's interesting to realize how much of the vaunted Rollins attitude comes from singing lyrics written mostly by Greg Ginn, but the singer definitely makes those words his own regardless. Certainly his generally terse spoken word bits practically drip with the man's essence -- talking about "Annihilate": "This is a song about killing yourself to live." Ginn's blend of straight-ahead punk riffage and ponderous if still exciting open-ended sludge tones and soloing matches Rollins just fine, while Kira and Martinez do their job well enough. Kira adds some deadpan backing vocals at points as well. Strong numbers include "Bastard in Love," given a tight performance and an almost sweet touch of guitar jangle at points, and smoking takes on "The Best One Yet" and their inimitable version of "Louie, Louie." The CD version is the one to get, with a further half-hour of music from the show than on the vinyl version.

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