This record has a very mixed reputation, with some people viewing it as a daring left-turn, and a major step in the evolution of a genre Black Flag usually had nothing to do with, and far more people seeing it as a utter betrayal of Blag Flag’s sound. I tend to think that the most “punk” thing a punk band could do is to piss off its own fans, so I think I come down in the former camp, to some extend anyway.
The record is divided into two sides. On the first side is a more ambitious Black Flag sound featuring a few longer songs and way more guitar solos. The second side is three six minute long tracks that sound like a more competent Flipper or early sludge metal. (I have read that sludge metal already existed in 1984, so Blag Flag didn’t invent anything here, but I don’t know that for sure.)
One of the things I don’t love about punk is the tendency for most bands to never evolve, or to barely evolve over decades. So kudos to Black Flag for trying to break away from their previous sound. But I’m not sure it entirely works. The decision, for example, to try two different, arguably opposed, things, is an odd one. The first side sounds like a natural progression more than the second side. I sort of wish they had picked one sound, or sequenced the record differently. I understand why they did it this way – the shock was saved for later – but I do think the record would flow better not divided in half, or if they had just picked one of the two changes in style.
Also, I don’t think the songs are quite up to the standard of the debut, though that makes sense given what they were trying to do here.
But I like Ginn’s solos and Rollins is in fine form and is perhaps more suited to sing this material than other hardcore singers of his generation. I like the record I just think it could be better… more consistent is probably the better way of putting it.