Friday, January 16, 2009

Black Flag - The Complete 1982 Demos Plus More!

Black Flag
The Complete 1982 Demos Plus More!
bootleggish type thing

by DC the Medic

The 1982 demos show an interesting aspect of the Black Flag discography. Damaged was recorded as a five-piece, but the songs were written with one guitar in mind. However the later material, especially My War and Slip It In were written for two guitars, but were recorded with only one player, Greg Ginn. The Unicorn lawsuit prevented the band from playing or recording anything as Black Flag for the better part of two years, muzzling the band during a period of peak creativity. When My War was finally released, it must have seemed like an entirely different band calling themselves Black Flag, and for all intents and purposes Black Flag was a different band. When the group finally emerged triumphant from the Unicorn lawsuit, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, and ROBO had all left the band. Undeterred, Greg Ginn found new players and continued to push the group forward, and Black Flag started releasing, in rapid fire succession, all the material that had been shelved for the previous two years. The rest, as they say, is history.

However in 1982, mired in their legal battles, Black Flag said to hell with court injunctions and went to the studio to record a demo of their new material. The 1982 demos are the post-Damaged material the way it was intended to be played. The lineup was Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins, Dukowski, Cadena, and Chuck Biscuits (post-DOA, pre-Danzig) on drums. These songs, especially "My War" and "Can't Decide" show the full, and unfortunately unrealized potential of Black Flag with two guitar players. When I hear the 1982 version of "My War" I wonder why modern bands who insist on covering this song (I'm looking at you Bleeding Through) don't take their cues from the layered sound Ginn and Cadena created. Biscuits' drumming fits this material surprisingly well, even though this was the only time he recorded with the band. The first two songs, "What Can You Believe" and "Yes I Know" were written by Cadena, and when he left the band he took the songs with him, so Black Flag never played or recorded them again. The session ends with a brutal version of "Nothing Left Inside" and "Scream" played back to back, or as I call it, eleven and a half minutes of pure hate.

The Plus More! consists of three songs and an interview from the Radio Tokyo studio which were recorded just before the band embarked on the My War/Slip It In tour in 1984. By this time the lineup had morphed to Ginn, Rollins, Kira Roessler on Bass, and Bill Stevenson on drums, which personally speaking, was always my favorite Black Flag configuration. They do not disappoint as they shred through killer versions of "I Love You," "My War," and "Swinging Man" showing a group reaping the benefits of countless hours of practicing. The interview gives some insights into the individuals' thought processes and feelings about being on tour, the infamous The Bars tattoo, and other topics.

The 1982 demos are a missing link between Damaged and My War and they show the progression of the band as it added more elements to its sound. They also make any Black Flag fan wonder what could have been if the band had never signed that deal with Unicorn records and had been allowed to record and take the audience along as they grew and progressed. The Radio Tokyo 1984 songs bring us back to what actually was and remind Black Flag fans that despite all that could have been, what we had/have is still worth listening to, still killer, and still better than most of the stuff you hear today. Needless to say this is one of my favorite Black Flag albums.

Black Flag - The Complete 1982 Demos plus more



No Funeral said...

That's a good point about Bleeding Through. Not just them, but I wish more bands would listen to what Black Flag was actually playing instead of getting caught up in what they represent.

Gabriel Ferreira said...

Great review! I'm downloading this...