Bad Brains – Build A Nation – Review

badbrains200Bad Brains

Build A Nation (Megaforce)
By Ewan Wadharmi

Prior to American Idol and Dreamgirls, Jenifer/Hudson meant main Bad Brains contributors Daryl Jenifer and singer Paul “H.R.” Hudson. By the time The Clash released the 1980 reggae-tinged disasterpiece Sandinista!, Bad Brains’ influential rastapunk had already laid the ground-work for the hardcore scene. Despite stylistic shifts, temporary replacements, and many breakups, the quartet can’t seem to make separation stick. With accomplished guitarist Dr. Know and H.R.’s brother Earl on drums, Build A Nation shows all original members present and accounted for, returning to their roots-rock-reggae.

Beastie Boys may’ve forgotten their punk beginnings (as well as the vocals on their newest The Mix-Up), but Adam Yauch’s production brings the Brains’ origins to the forefront. Skate-worthy thrashers “Jah People Make The World Go Round” and “Universal Peace” co-exist with ganja friendly “Roll On” and “Until Kingdom Comes.” It sounds like H.R. has been puffing stuff. Like smoking a joint wet, mellow reflection turns to explosive convulsions on “Give Thanks And Praises,” where disturbed dubbing and paranoiac voices echo menacingly. While “Natty Dreadlocks” plays it straight with twelfth-tribe spirituality direct from the island.

Bands from many camps took Bad Brains’ lead, from pogo-meisters Fishbone to watered-down 311 and Sublime. But few have produced a work as edifying and emotionally whole as this. On par with I Against I.