While Henry Rollins has enough of a reputation over the years for his spoken word material, his best effort actually has its roots in his Black Flag days. An abridgement of his journals and reflections on first becoming a fan and then a member of Black Flag, Get in the Van: On the Road is an often fantastic and quite a hilarious peek into not only his past but that of American punk music across the nation. Though Rollins usually succeeds best with an audience to interact with, his low, steady intensity carries well through the disc, and in some respects all he has to do is let the story tell itself. If there's a specific theme throughout, unsurprisingly, it's about Rollins learning more about self-reliance while the band itself provides inspiration and a few lessons about life along the way -- whether or not one agrees with them is up to the listener. But ultimately it's all about the anecdotes, and the stories alone range from the humorous to the often frightening -- the many tales about police abuse of punk audiences and bands are enough to make one want to carry off a slew of retrospective arrests on the boys in blue. But on the flip side, there are tales ranging from Rollins launching himself from a stage and ending up on top of Jello Biafra in the audience to wandering into a venue to find out who the Misfits cover band he was hearing was and encountering the Misfits themselves. Rollins praises Michael Stipe as an early friend and then flips it around to describe a show with Venom (and their self-described "black f*ckin' metal!") as being a case of having to suffer fools, not very gladly. Then there's Ultravox and Midge Ure's in-person dismissal of Black Flag as "dross" -- but Rollins gets his revenge by mentioning Ure's booties.
Get in the Van: On the Road with Black Flag Review
by Ned Raggett
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2