Build A Nation review by Bad Brains

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  • Released: Jun 26, 2007
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (20 votes)
Bad Brains: Build A Nation
1

Sound — 8
The younger generation might not be too familiar with the band Bad Brains, but the hardcore punk/reggae group has been named as an influence by multiple musicians (everyone from Billy Corgan to Lil' John) since it formed back in the late '70s. Although the band was an instrumental in the D.C. hardcore punk movement in the early '80s, the quartet took a much more fascinating turn when it started to inject more reggae into it's sound. Bad Brains' latest record Build A Nation bounces back and forth between reggae and punk, and you can instantly hear how the veteran band has influenced such bands as Sublime and 311. Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys is at the helm as producer, but bassist Darryl Jenifer recently pointed out that the rapper still left the creative direction entirely up to the band. Build A Nation definitely sticks to the band's trademark sound, and the 14-track CD is a must-have for anyone who is open-minded enough to enjoy both a little Bob Marley and Black Flag. The opening track Give Thanks And Praises is the perfect blend of both the mellow and aggressive side of Bad Brains, and is a fairly good representation of the album. This is not to say that every single track dishes out equal parts reggae and punk. A song like Roll On is one of the most laid-back reggae tracks on Build A Nation, and the band wisely understood that throwing in a punk section was completely unnecessary. For listeners who have a hard time with pure reggae, a few tracks on the CD will probably try your patience because it will seem like you're listening to a traditional reggae release. If you do have eclectic taste, Build A Nation is the most honest reggae-punk you're likely to find today -- particularly considering most if not all of the band follow the Rastafari movement. There have been a few lineup changes through the years and even included former Faith No More vocalist Chuck Mosley in the 80s. But the most recent incarnation of Bad Brains is the one that has endured the longest, featuring charismatic vocalist H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer, and drummer Earl Hudson. It's always fascinating to hear H.R.'s vocal phrasing change when he jumps from reggae to punk, and it's a credit to him that he's able to transition so smoothly.

Lyrics — 9
Although the band was accused of spewing negative lyrics in a few songs during their earlier years, it's obvious that the musicians have entered a different state of mind as they have gotten older. Build A Nation continued that trend, with songs that speak about everything from universal peace to giving thanks to a higher power. Many of these spiritual tracks do take a mellow turn, but that seems completely appropriate with titles like Jah Love and Peace Be Unto Thee.

Overall Impression — 9
Considering that Bad Brains started out as a hardcore punk band, they have still always been impressive musicians. Their songs go way beyond just a few basic chord patterns, particularly when the reggae comes into play. The last track Peace Be Unto Thee also features a fantastic horn section, which is extremely subtle and underplayed, yet still makes a lasting impression. The album is a far cry from the younger, rebellious days of Bad Brains, and that may leave some punk purists a little disappointed. But if anything the album's lyrics and music show how much the band has grown. It's hard to say whether producer Adam Yauch's presence made that much of a difference in terms of the music, but hopefully the name notoriety alone will help Bad Brains receive a bit more recognition for their influence on today's music.

26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    stuportrooper
    Man I would not give this CD an 8. It was a total let down. It's nothing like their old sound and even the reggae portion is weak. To be truthful don't buy this cd.
    HeavyReggea311
    misirlou wrote: sublime and 311 were the only bad brains-influenced bands you could think of? anyway, i've heard bits and pieces of the album, and it's pretty good. it's not amazing, but i'd definitely burn a copy off someone and stick it on my ipod. Hey big shot better do some research before you make a comment about sublime and 311. If you know anything about Bad Brains, there main producer was/still is Ron Saint. Ron Saint has produced for bands such as 311 and Sublime. He has also produced for Tool. 311 and Sublime are GREATLY influenced by Bad Brains and because of the great success that both bands have its more notable to say that.
    kryptonite22
    vocals are disappointing. the rest is good stuff. you know the basic deal with a bad brains album.
    bootyking69
    why do people want old bands to play fast and crazy like when they were young?? there old now that carzy stuff is for young people like me!
    GNRrockslife
    I love Bad Brains, and I'm 16. They have a huge youth following in my area. Haven't had a chance to get the new album yet though, but its deffinitely on my wish list. Dr. Know is one of my idols
    YourMessiah666
    What the hell are these guys still doing in the game?! I mean, go out while your on top guys, and you were on top. But sounds like this is an okay album, but nothing to continue the Bad Brains legacy. Good to see they still know how to rock though!
    proletariat
    This album is sick, HR cant scream like he used to which sucks for the faster songs but their reggae has improved a lot. Their fast songs are still old school bad brains but HR just cant bring the house down with the vocals but i like how they improvised. great album overall
    Skarson
    A little warning: this probably isn't whatever you're expecting. Don't just listen to it once, let it grow on you.
    sacrifise8
    i just got it the other day and i honestly think that these guys have honestly been the best authentic punk band to always have a fresh sound and not get boring.
    droog4life
    i understand as bands get older they evolve, and thats what bad brains did here.... but i really miss their old stuff. to me, this stuff here isn't bad brains anymore...
    TC1223
    misirlou wrote: sublime and 311 were the only bad brains-influenced bands you could think of? anyway, i've heard bits and pieces of the album, and it's pretty good. it's not amazing, but i'd definitely burn a copy off someone and stick it on my ipod.
    Good job - way to support the band
    misirlou
    sublime and 311 were the only bad brains-influenced bands you could think of? anyway, i've heard bits and pieces of the album, and it's pretty good. it's not amazing, but i'd definitely burn a copy off someone and stick it on my ipod.
    Animeguy
    Im 16. And i LOVE Bad Brains. Just saying that there is a small youth following for them. I'm totally going to buy this album, by the way. From what i've heard of it its not as good as I Against I but still its Bad Brains!
    Iliemyfaceoff
    I really didnt like this album.. at all. Nothing like the old stuff. And I much listen to reggea than hardcore with reggea vocals wich really didnt seem to make any sense to me, melody or timing wise.
    DString
    Uhmmmmm. Didn't these guys open for a band in NYC, and stole the show, a few years ago. Uhmmmm, punk and reggae they have added the proper proportions of each to make this a good album. My hats off to Dr.Know and his fellow physicians for songs on this album.
    Jau_Peacecraft
    This album is ****ing perfect; I pretty much crapped my pants listening to this. The best album since I against I, even though I downloaded this I am buying this the first chance I get. Welcome back Bad Brains, I've missed you so.
    Jau_Peacecraft
    This album is ****ing perfect. The best album since I against I, even though I downloaded this I am buying this the first chance I get.
    AllMidnightEyes
    Skarson wrote: A little warning: this probably isn't whatever you're expecting. Don't just listen to it once, let it grow on you.
    Very true there. It took me a couple listens for me to get into this album. A decent CD. I give it a 7.5/10