Bad Brains: Into the future – album review

Bad Brains – Into the Future (Megaforce Records)
CD / DL / LP
Available now 

“A spiritual Punk Rock Metal Reggae spectacular” is the thrilling conclusion our reviewer comes to about the latest long player from one of his favourite bands, Bad Brains.

Okay, let’s get this out in the open. Bad Brains are one of my favourite bands. The very fact that they looked like the Wailers and played better, faster and more complex hardcore than the Dead Kennedys clinched the deal for me. ‘Pay 2 Cum’ is one of those seven inch singles everybody should own.

They have presented us with eight albums over the years and now, five years since their last and thirty years since their first they have a new record out. Leaked on red, yellow or green coloured vinyl as a bootleg by the band to various US record shops it’s already out there and trust me, you need to hear it.

Bad Brains live have always been formidable, fast and as unstoppable as a hurricane, dreads flying and sweat spraying everywhere, dropping down into faultless reggae breaks and then cranking it up to even higher and better guitar madness. But thirty years on, have they transferred this to record? Are they old and tired? Can they keep going?

It kicks off with four drum stick clicks, a stutter of guitar that flows into straight ahead punk with HR singing on top of the mix with his high understated style of singing. The music sounds effortless, but it is complex and a million miles away from heads down hardcore thrash.

They swing from punk to dubby spaced out interludes, the drums go from thundering metal to funky reggae breaks. The sound is warm and organic, it’s tight and never gives the impression that it took any effort whatsoever to create it. The contradiction is that such a fierce sound can sound so laid back.

Into the Future is a fine return, the music switches and changes, often in the same song. They enjoy their legacy, the sampled voice at the start of ‘Jah Love’ talks about them breaking down barriers and not realising it.

The majority of the music is punky thrash with slower, dub inspired interludes, but there are standout exceptions to the rule, slow, languid dub reggae being the most obvious, ‘Rub a Dub Love’ swings along with a smooth bass groove and funky beat. ‘Jah Love’ uses a buzzing bass and dub lines to talk about a deeper meaning in life, ‘It’s not the clothes …, it’s not the weed … it’s Jah Love’ it sounds spiritual and alive. ‘We need a direction’ is the feeling behind ‘Make a Joyful Noise’ which has a loose ska feel, sunny and positive.

There’s a metallic sound to ‘Youth of today’ that could have come straight from the seminal ‘I against I’. The metal edge rears up again on ‘Earnest Love’ which has a more laid back feel.

The last song on the album is ‘MCA Dub’, the late Adam Yauch produced their last album, and cited their ‘Bad Brains’ record as “the best punk/hardcore album of all time”. This is their tribute to him, it’s a dub masterwork and the only track on the album that doesn’t sound alive and positive. It echoes a feeling of loss and emptiness.

To reiterate what I asked earlier, thirty years on Bad Brains have triumphed, this record has been playing constantly since I got it and it’s the sound of a band not only keeping going, but moving their sound onward and dragging us with them.

A spiritual Punk Rock Metal Reggae spectacular moving forward. Into the future indeed.

All words by Adrian Bloxham. You can read more from Adrian on LTW here.

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