Sound — 9
By 1985 Greg Ginn was ready to move on. He had finally used up the last of the backlogged tunes from the "1982 Demo" days on "Loose Nut" and was ready to begin finally working on his debut solo album. But there was a catch. Henry Rollins, immensely inspired by Ginn's musical progression and feeling a bit left out, started writing lyrics to many of Ginn's songs, presenting the guitarist with some of later Black Flag's most legendary cuts (i.e. "In My Head," "Drinking & Driving"). The guitarist gave in to Henry's suggestion that his debut solo LP should be a Black Flag LP and thus, "In My Head" was born. The record that resulted could have and should have been Black Flag's greatest achievement. Unfortunately, the production which is dark and ominous yet muffled, ended up hindering the overall sound of arguably one of, if not the, most musically progressive punk rock album of all time.
Lyrics — 9
However, despite the stellar songwriting (complete with heavy metal riffage, free jazz inspired leads, galloping punk tempos and subtly complex yet heavily undermined rhythm parts) the recording lacked the power the songs were revealed to posses live (see the "Last Show" bootleg demo for proof of the incredible live versions of these songs and half of the "I Can See You" demos). To make matters worse musically, though Ginn's guitar is easily the most audible instrument on the album, many of the solos on the album (i.e. "The Crazy Girl," "White Hot") are oddly inaudible due to the rhythm guitar parts being mixed at the same volume (a complaint that syncs up with many solos off Greg's side project Gone's debut released during the same time). Further adding to the problem was the fact that not only were Henry's vocals mixed to a muddy low volume but many of the takes lacked the ferocity he was known to deliver live (compare "White Hot" off of this release to any live version of the song and you will understand).
Overall Impression — 9
Despite this lack of cohesion, however, Black Flag managed to pull off one last work of brilliance. Songs like "Paralyzed," "Black Love," "Retired at 21" and "Society's Tease" showcase Greg Ginn's utter brilliance as both a player and composer, complete with earth shattering heaviness, technical ability and beautiful passages of melody to offset the chaos. Other songs like "The Crazy Girl" and "It's All Up to You" do more than just showcase Ginn's talents, they also showcase how tight the Roessler/Stevenson rhythm section was, with incredible off-time subtlety a staple of their fantastic performances. Henry's lyrics are, as usual, full of poetic bile and cultural disdain, perfect for the musical tone set by the band. All in all four and a half stars may be excessive for the RECORD but not at all for the material. The material here is remarkable and completely different from the legendary punk works of the early days that made Black Flag such an influential and powerful unit. Do not judge this album by heresay. Listen to it, dig it and compare and contrast it with the live versions and over time I'm sure you will understand why many fans consider this the last REAL Black Flag record… and listening to those live versions on acid definitely helps.