With musicians, like athletes, it's always disheartening to watch them hang around long enough to see their abilities break down. Bad Brains fans, long beset by the band's notorious instability, have every reason to expect that a present-day reunion album can do nothing but tarnish the band's hallowed legacy. After all, we're talking about a group that was written-off for dead 12 years ago and is now at least 20 years past its prime. There's no way that Beastie Boy and longtime Bad Brains fanatic Adam Yauch wasn't aware of the odds when he took on the responsibility of producing Build a Nation. But he did it anyway. Kudos to him and recording engineer Matt Marinelli for even trying. Triple kudos to them for succeeding. For their part, the band itself turns in performance after performance with the energy of men half their age — or, more precisely, men who are trying to recapture the sound and fury of youth as if their lives depended upon it. Only, in this case, for whatever reason, Bad Brains appear neither desperate nor pitiful. Guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jennifer, and drummer Earl Hudson play with a vengeance while Yauch and Marinelli commit the band's trademark speedy slur to tape, managing to make it sound fatter than it ever has. Longtime fans may criticize lead singer HR's performance, but he sounds set-in to the music like never before, while the album as a whole finds that elusive middle ground between Bad Brains' hardcore and metal leanings. All in all, you couldn't ask for a more invigorating reunion record.
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