Black Flag, Nervous Breakdown

Michael Azerrad

By Michael Azerrad

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Black Flag’s bristling 1979 debut launched a thousand punk bands.

These five minutes of music launched a thousand punk bands. Black Flag's 1979 debut remains preternaturally young, loud and snotty, Greg Ginn's guitar tone the very embodiment of aggression and disgust, singer Keith Morris the epitome of the wise-ass punk. It is mind-bogglingly annoying. (Even the cover by Ginn's brother Raymond Pettibon is still unsettling). The EP's genius is for exploding teen angst to apocalyptic proportions, expressed with Zen-like exactitude, like an Ernest Hemingway haiku — "Fix me, fix my head," Morris squawks, "Fix me please, I don't want to be dead." What else is there to say? Back then there was not much precedent for what punk rock was — "I've Had It," for instance, is a shotgun marriage of Led Zeppelin ("Communication Breakdown") and Dr. Demento ("They're Coming to Take Me Away"), and the exhilarating feeling of defining your own turf pervades every second. Black Flag had shone a light on the flip-side of the California dream — all that mediocre comfort and benign weather had bred a climate of stifling anomie that could only be broken by the most dire, desperate music.