It’s easy to understand why fans might be cynical about the fact that the original lineup of the Bad Brains, one of the most storied acts in the history of hardcore, is back together yet again. If you haven't already heard, they've got a brand new album, Build a Nation, which comes out today.
After enduring many false alarms with reunions that were either short-lived, lukewarm, disastrous, or all of the above, Brains afficionados can’t be blamed for not cutting out of work early to hit the record store. Sure, heading home to spark a J and spend the afternoon getting carried away by Dr. Know and the original gang with the new record on repeat seems like an awesome idea, but past precedent indicates that getting your hopes up probably means trouble. As much as the makers of the American Hardcore film did a good job of not wallowing in nostalgia, hardcore that’s living, breathing, and sweating in the flesh, right in your face in the present tense presents a risky gamble at best and a demoralizing blow at worst. Hardcore was always self-referencing music, and to go along for the ride in 2007 necessarily entails living in the past. But, as the film conveys rather well, Bad Brains mean a lot to the people who love them, which happens to include scores of people who parlayed their involvement in hardcore into a career --- people like Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Harley Flanagan, and, last but not least, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who just so happened to produce the band’s new offering.
Again, fans might be leary, thinking that such a pairing sounds so good on paper that it’s got to be too good to be true. Sometimes what sounds too good to be true actually comes true. Who’s to say whether the band will implode again before it gets to tour, but at least you now have a permanent document of that Bad Brains energy, finally captured in a studio recording. With this new disc (which also comes out on red-yellow-green vinyl!), Bad Brains delivers us once and for all unto the musical Zion that has eluded its supporters --- and the band itself --- for so long. --Saby Reyes-Kulkarni