Black Flag, Damaged

Michael Azerrad

By Michael Azerrad

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A hardcore classic, a masterpiece of distilled rage.

After three lead singers, Black Flag leader Greg Ginn had finally found his ideal mouthpiece in Henry Rollins, a troubled D.C. teen who barked like Popeye's drill sergeant. The new lineup banged out Damaged, one of hardcore's first albums and an all-time punk classic. All exultant rage and self-lacerating angst, this savage, apopletic screed is so completely overwhelming that it's hard to imagine ever listening to anything else. The caustic bass shreds the very air, the drums slap like a back-alley beat-down, and Ginn's guitar, a nasty, reckless roar of speed and distortion (check "Depression"), tests the limits of musicality; Rollins rampages through the chaos with a heart full of napalm. "Rise Above" is the definitive hardcore anthem, but most songs are first-person portraits of confused, desperate characters just about to explode; paradoxically, that's when Damaged is at its most triumphal. When Rollins howls "I want to live!/ I wish I was dead!" there's nothing more life-affirming.