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Bad Brains

by Bad Brains

Released February 5, 1982 via Reachout International Records

Reviewed February 2, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Sailin’ On (67%), Banned in D.C. (63%), Big Take Over (42%)

Four black men navigating what were—at the time—predominantly white spaces, with a shared love for reggae and the Rastafarian movement, plus backgrounds in jazz don’t immediately jump out as being in alignment with the stereotypically raw and aggressive stylings of early hardcore punk. Yet, it is that and their presence as the East Coast’s first hardcore punk act that made them one of the genre’s most iconic and influential. Bad Brains’ explorations into reggae and funk fusions would become more pronounced in later works, but they shine no less brighter on their self-titled 1982 debut. Bad Brains set the pace for the East’s most prominent regions of Washington D.C. and New York City—both scenes in which they had a presence in—with music that was both uncharacteristically positive and impressively refined. Their breakneck speed came at no expense of technicality; riffs, solos, and the willingness to lean into grooves rather than pure speed was something their peers simply weren’t doing. And as champions of PMA—Positive Mental Attitude—Bad Brains channel aggressive energy into self-betterment. A few tracks remove themselves almost entirely from hardcore; these more traditional reggae takes prove to be equally impressive and never feel out of place, standing as a testament to Bad Brains’ skill as musicians and unifying powers within hardcore punk. – Dominick (9/10)

Bad Brains is an odds-defying, mold-shattering strike of lightning into the heart of hardcore punk from a group of black men residing in the nation’s capitol. In what stands as a historically significant and highly influential debut for the band, Bad Brains embraced their familiarity with the roots of rock music—along with jazz, funk, and reggae—to make for an eclectic musical statement. Thanks to the group’s contribution, the evermore prevalent genre-bending nature of today’s music feels significantly related to the release of Bad Brains. America’s listeners, despite a lack of precedence for a black punk rock band across the mainstream, were drawn to this album’s truly innovative intricacies and bold outlining. Like the album’s cover, Bad Brains is loaded with melanated concepts that simply read as bold, brash, and radical to the casual listener. – DeVán (8/10)

Jared: 10/10 | Cam: 9/10 | Dominick: 9/10 | Hadley: 8.5/10 | DeVán: 8/10


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