Bad Brains

Attitude: The ROIR Sessions

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Technically, the album sounds terrible. Musically, it's mostly serious thrash punk from 1982, with the odd spot of reggae thrown in. The lyrics are all but incomprehensible, most of the songs are under two minutes in length, and the experience could be likened to spending a day inside a concrete mixer on high speed. Yet, the experience is actually rather entertaining, if you're in the mood for some serious high-speed noise. Bad Brains hailed from Washington, D.C., and had the interesting background of having been a black jazz-rock band that decided to get into punk and thrash one day. Not exactly the normal route for a group of jazz types to go, but who's going to tell them no? This album was produced for cassette-only label ROIR, combining two of label-owner Neil Cooper's areas of interest. The tape, in fact, has become one of ROIR's best sellers, and the CD has followed suit. Basically, it's a short course in thrash -- the first five numbers are essentially sequenced back to back with each other, so you get blasted from the opening chord right through to the first reggae number without having a chance to stop. This is actually the recommend way to listen to this album. The muddy mix and odd bit of exploding timekeeping from the musicians actually adds to the ambience of the album -- the problem with some thrash bands who ended up on record was they sounded so pure, pristine, and well-mannered that one almost doubted the band could have been thought of as punk in the first place. Not so with Bad Brains -- the only time things clear up enough to hear what anyone's singing is on the reggae numbers. And they're pretty good at those, too. All in all, this is not likely to be everyone's cup of tea. It is, however, fun -- if you're in the mood -- as well as being a great document of one of the louder, faster, harder alternative moments in music history.

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