And Then They Put You In Left-Center Field

Ex-Black Flag, ex-Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris on the existential motivations of late-70s/early-80s punk:

"Black Flag didn't know it was a punk band. We were frustrated, stressed, angry. We were the last guys picked in P.E. class for softball teams. That's what all of this is about."

Exactly! That's what should drive rock — getting picked last in PE — not stuff like, I don't know, religion, politics or whatever else that takes the fun out of rock. No one really wants to Rage Against The Machine — they want to Rage Against Being Last Picked In PE.

I've thought that Keith Morris was the best Black Flag vocalist of the — checking Wikipedia — I think four they had — including Henry Rollins, who is now the most famous of anyone involved in that band. Morris' whiny voice totally fit the simple songs and complemented Black Flag's SKRONK! and YARR! sounds. (Also of note: according to some, apparently guitarist Greg Ginn eschewed tube amps for solid state ones that emphasized the CHUNK-CHUNK-CHUNK-CHUNK SKRONK! sound; this makes me feel good because I never had enough money to own a tube amp and felt uncool for years because of it.)

Take a listen for yourself . . .

Here's the Black Flag classic "Gimme Gimme Gimme" with Keith Morris (1977 demo):

And here's Henry Rollins doing the same song on the Damaged LP (1981):

Rollins just kind of sounds like he's trying too hard.

The songs on Damaged (1981) sound redonkulous — so messy with two guitars and Henry Rollins MAXING OUT HIS VOCALS, etc. Later in Black Flag's tenure, Henry Rollins' over-caffeinated ROAR made the band sound kind of big and dumb (and then there's all that weird poetry stuff, though what do you do?). I guess he was probably the best vocalist, objectively, probably, but there's something really great about Keith Morris' style.

By the way, the Circle Jerks Group Sex LP (1980) is so, so great; at 15 minutes long you can send MP3s of the whole thing in one Gmail. If I wanted this to be a music blog, I'd post every single one of the songs and encourage you to dump the whole shebang straight into your iTunes sight unseen — it's just that good! Keith Morris expands on the Black Flag sound, taking the skronk! of Black Flag and perfecting it, which is funny and "hard" all at one time; kind of a perfect punk album. The 25-second (!) "Deny Everything" is just brilliant, as is the rest of it. A lot of stuff from this era is "interesting" in the way that academic art is "interesting" (cf. Live Skull) but Group Sex really rocks. I was excited when I dug it out and made MP3s from the vinyl.

Posted: March 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Jukebox | Tags: , , ,