MUSIC REVIEW | Black Flag – Damaged (1981)


I love punk rock. I love Henry Rollins. So why have I never taken the time to listen to Black Flag and presumably love them too? A few times a year, I’ll ask myself that question and listen to a random track or two. Then, something will distract me, and I’ll forget all about Black Flag for another month or two. At 35 minutes long, it’s a travesty that I’ve never found the time to listen to Damaged in its entirety until now.

Opening fast, loud and as in my face as I hoped a Black Flag album would, Rise Above is a great combo of disgruntled anger and positivity. Henry might be singing about being sick of the world around him and how it’s run, but he’s also singing about overcoming it and doing his bit to make the world a better place.

I think something that always made me a little wary of Black Flag was that they seemed more hard core than my punk rock tastes usually lead to. I dig bands like Bad Religion, who are fast, loud and angry, but never at the expense of melody. And when it comes to Rollin’s solo work, I’ve always seen it as closer to hard rock than punk.

While Damaged is certainly more hard core than your average Bad Religion output, and messier than solo Henry, songs like Six Pack and TV Party give me more melody than I ever expected. At the same time, What I See makes me appreciate the hard core angle I’ve avoided for so long.

Six Pack and TV Party were also big surprises in how snarky and funny Black Flag could be. They’re almost bitchy in the way they take down people this band obviously despises. I would have expected more seething anger, than this sarcastic piss pulling. Which I definitely see as a good thing. I’m all for bands taking down the establishment, or whatever it is they see as the worst parts of society, but I find it a lot easier to swallow when it’s more self-aware than self-important.

Then comes Gimme Gimme Gimme, the closest thing to latter years solo Henry that Damaged has to offer. So much like solo Henry, I know I’ve heard it plenty of times before and assumed it was from one of his solo albums. Now that I know it’s from his Black Flag days, I can hear that it’s a little rougher and more raw than what he’d produce in the future, and I love it even more for it.

The current iterations of Black Flag limping around the world are a perfect example of why it’s generally a good idea for broken up bands to stay broken up. With two versions of the band, both in membership flux, neither including Rollins, it couldn’t be a more obvious, or more sad cash grab. If I was a fan back in the day, I think I might resent what these dudes are doing to their own legacy today. But since I’m thirty years late to the party, I can ignore what’s happening now and pretend the Black Flag on Damaged is the Black Flag of today.

Black Flag

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