Bad Brains’ Latest Smokes and Sizzles

Hardcore legends Bad Brains are straight outta D.C. yet again with their latest, Into the Future. After thirty-six years, the Bad Brains are as righteous and enigmatic as ever. Future is only the third album of original music by the group since 1995, and the first since the stellar 2007 release, Build a Nation.

The band has slowed down a pace since they debuted with the proto-punk single Pay to Cum, and their aggressive swagger has neither cooled nor dimmed. “Yes I” is eighty-eight blitzkrieg seconds of blinding fret speed and chest-rattling sonic bombs. The equally hammering “Suck Sess”, dominated by the brutality of Hudson’s kick drum, and the instrumental “Come Down” will surely be setting off mosh pits at upcoming dates.

On Future, each part of the Bad Brains’ engine is humming: the tripped-out swirl of Dr. Know’s soloing throughout is fiery, fluid and fierce as ever; singer HR is in fine throat, especially on “Popcorn”, his Rasta-cum-punk vocalizations remaining one of the most distinct and natural voices of his generation; the all-star crushing rhythm section of Darryl Jenifer (bass) and Earl Hudson (drum) stakes their claim as the most punishing duo ever committed to shellac. On Future, the band have their feet on the gas almost non-stop, making this one of the hardest records BB has ever unleashed.

But Future isn’t all slap bass, bombshell drums and scathing guitar licks. The Jah breakdown on “Youth of Today” is pure Rasta glory. Dub lovers will find succor in “Rub A Dub Love”, a percussion-heavy stab with production touches reminiscent of Scientist. Ditto “Jah Love”, its spacey flourishes provides the album with its requisite ganja groove. No band has so consistently impressed in their ability to stop — on a dime — from full CBGB gallop to a loping, reggae gait as the Bad Brains.

The album’s other instrumental, “Make A Joyful Noise”, might be too jazzy for some listeners, but as a showcase for the prowess and dexterity of Dr. Know, it is an impressive addition to his CV.

Typical of Bad Brains, there is no fussing about here. The album veers from straight-up hardcore to low-down dub with total abandon, never losing the plot. The only misstep here is the trite “Fun”, a hokey jam with the depth and wisdom of a Sheryl Crow crowd pleaser. Otherwise, Into the Future is stone cold awesome. Last time out, Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch of the Beastie Boys manned the production console. This time, Bad Brains take care of those duties themselves. A dubbed-up rendition of “Peace Be Unto Thee”, entitled “MCA Dub” closes the album out with a heartfelt tribute to the late Beastie Boy.

If Into the Future is the sound of the Bad Brains looking ahead, then the future sounds like a bumping party, a future of no determinate best-buy date. A future where the sounds of 1977, 1982 and 2012 live one in one glorious gumbo of ferocity and soul. Ladies and gentlemen, say Jah!

Jason Motz

Jason Motz

Jason Motz is a freelance writer and editor based out of Vancouver. Since 2011 he has been the Managing Editor of Positive Living magazine.