Henry Rollins

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Former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins kicked off his solo career with a two-fisted solo album that left nothing to chance. Where his former band's mid-'80s output never stopped twitting fans' expectations, Rollins opted for a hard-hitting linear focus that's direct and unsparing -- especially when the target is himself. (The compact disc reissue includes the Drive By Shooting EP, which upholds Rollins' penchant for dark urban humor -- hence, its credit to Henrietta Collins & the Wifebeating Childhaters!) "Black & White"'s antiracist indictments get the album off to a searing start, though it doesn't take long for Rollins' thoughts to turn inward on "Followed Around," "Lost and Found," and "There's a Man Outside." Fans of Tetsuo II: Body Hammer will appreciate the title song's sentiments -- which acknowledge the need to close down feelings to weather times of urban stress ("you have to be part animal, part machine/if you take a good look around, you can see what I mean"). But the coda brims with the defiance that characterizes much of Rollins' solo work ("I won't take/I won't break"). But Rollins hasn't left the old ways completely behind. "A Man and a Woman" harks back to the Family Man era of storytelling over some nonstop improvised riff, while "No One"'s bloodcurdling screams and pounding basslines recall My War's infamous dirge-ridden second side. Taut covers of Suicide ("Ghost Rider"), Chuck Berry ("Crazy Lover"), and the Velvet Underground ("Move Right In") affirm the impeccable taste of Rollins' record collection. Guitarist Chris Haskett stacks up as a more straight-ahead player against the Black Flag era's dense arrangements and off-kilter rhythms, but he's no less explosive. The later albums' jazz-flecked basslines and experimental drum lines haven't appeared yet, but the sound is unflinching as its leader -- and the suburban teens upset by the Dead Kennedys' breakup had a new soundtrack for their alienation.