Album Review: What The… by Black Flag

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By: John Barnum
What The…
Black Flag
SST Records
3 December, 2013

With only one original band member, the band’s founder Gregg Ginn, Black Flag and SST records released the album What The… on Tuesday Dec. 3rd It is Black Flag’s first album since 1986 and it may be their last. Black Flag has maintained a very powerful cult following regardless of its discontinuity, but What The… leaves them a bit disappointed. The album itself has some good aspects, but it may not meet the standards met by previous records.

The cover of the album looks a bit abnormal in comparison with past album artwork. Abandoning creepy and suggestive images coated in black and white, Black Flag covers their new album with an image that only makes you ask the question “what the…” The doodle from your calculus class comes to life and rears its ugly green face with the apparent message of “[email protected]#k you!” It seems as though Black Flag has stepped away from its previous image and is trying to grab a new audience with this odd drawing. It is clear that not much effort was put into the cover, at least in comparison with previous artwork, and the album seems to follow suit.

The first track , “My Heart’s Pumping,” has a rather hesitant and awkward start, but once the drums start rolling they seem to get back into their groove. The song is a bit adversarial to the ears at first, but after at least a second listen the lyrics  and the accompanying rollercoaster rift will be beating in your head long afterwards. There is no denying Gregg Ginn’s talent as a guitarist, through all the madness and chaos the masterful chords can be identified and admired by even the most non hardcore punk fan. The vocals are reminiscent to previous Black Flag songs but it does sometimes feel like there is something missing.

The second track, “Down In The Dirt,”  has a much better start and the chords of Gregg Ginn are much more prominent. The vocals and sound sync relatively well making this song one of the best on the album. The best song on the album would have to be “The Chase;”  the vocals actually sound like they belong to the song it is on, the bass and guitar are probably the most dynamic they get on the album, and the drums are audible. Ther remaining tracks all sound fairly similar, except for a couple that are noteworthy, such as “Go Away” and “Lies.”

The album overall  is consistent: maintaining that in your face, loud and angry sound that is well associated with hardcore punk. The album contains 22 tracks which are all thankfully very short, the average being about 1:30 to 2 min, the longest being 3:49 min. To be honest though, you should try to avoid this album, although “The Chase” is worth a listen. If looking for something as an introduction into the hardcore punk world, you should check out older Black Flag albums or maybe Circle Jerks or Descendents. If you’re looking for more Black flag to add to your current collection, you should pretend this album didn’t happen and remember Black Flag as they were. Or at the very least put this on a separate shelf out of view.

Recommended if you like: Circle Jerks, Descendents, Minutemen 

Album Highlights: My Heart’s Pumping, Down in the Dirt, Go Away, The Chase, Lies

Tracklist:

01 My Heart’s Pumping
02 Down in the Dirt
03 Blood and Ashes
04 Now Is the Time
05 Wallow in Despair
06 Slow Your Ass Down
07 It’s so Absurd
08 Shut Up
09 This Is Hell
10 Go Away
11 The Bitter End
12 The Chase
13 I’m Sick
14 It’s Not My Time to Go-Go
15 Lies
16 Get Out of My Way
17 Outside
18 No Teeth
19 To Hell and Back
20 Give Me All Your Dough
21 You Gotta Be Joking
22 Off My Shoulders

 

3 Comments on this post

  1. Well written

    Lisa / Reply
  2. Well said

    CT / Reply
  3. Impressive review considering you were not even born when their last album came out.

    jb / Reply

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