The Formative Years – Rollins Band
I would deem it borderline impossible to be into punk and hardcore and not only be familiar with but have a distinct take on Henry Rollins. While the topic of who the best Black Flag frontman was remains a well-debated, the fact that Rollins left an indelible mark with his stint in charge of Black Flag’s vocal delivery is undisputed.
In the late 1980s, an older scenester not only recorded a Black flag mix tape for me but also included songs from Rollins’ first solo album, i.e., Hot Animal Machine, the CD of which I acquired not too longer after. By that time, I had also started tracking down Rollins’ first attempts at literary pursuits and his first spoken-word album Big Ugly Mouth. The albums were interesting, - musically not necessarily bangers, at times silly and the spoken word performances still worlds from the refined engaging experiences that an evening with Rollins started to evolve to in the '00s.
Musically things got more interesting when Rollins teamed up with what was to become a napalm unit of musicians, i.e., Andrew Weiss, Sim Cain, Chris Haskett and sound engineer and mentor Theo van Rock.
Apart from an appreciation for rock and metal, I was intrigued to hear jazzy influences and what seemed to be a channelling of the adoration for Jimi Hendrix oeuvre on the Life Time album, the central theme of which was of course in true Rollins’ fashion alienation and existential funks in all shapes and forms, culminating in the song "Hard Volume," which gave an idea of where things were going to head into.
The murder of Rollins’ best friend Joe Cole in 1991 was not explicitly mentioned anywhere on the tank of an album that The End of Silence is, but it would be difficult to imagine that it served as the catalyst for what is a tour de force of pain, rage, despair, guilt and animosity.
The album sucked me in like a black whole both lyrically. Sonically production was stepped up a few notches, more polished and the clockwork-like precision of the Rollins Band and their full potential was exhibited for the first time. A pivotal raw, white-hot intense record, blueprint for the future, musical sledgehammer and all-out attack that resonated with every fibre of my being.
Weight in 1994 was the next album and both the songs, vocal delivery and lyrics were much more refined and tightened up – partly due to the new bassist Melvin Gibbs ‘love for jazz - and via MTV and the heavy rotation of "Liar," it allowed for Rollins Band to infiltrate and establish itself in the mainstream conscience.
The album contains some of my favourite Rollins Band tracks with Volume 4 being an outstanding example. I would go as far as claiming that in essence, Weight is the polished, simmered down essence of The End of Silence.
Get Some Go Again was the first album after the core of the Rollins Band had departed and saw Rollins team up with LA rock band Mother Superior.
The result is an extremely enjoyable full length that while not being as eclectic as the back catalogue, is a load of fun to listen to with its airtight grooves and homage to the greater moments of the bands that Rollins has always cited as his main influences.
Both Nice and Come In and Burn are solid albums, yet feel a tad recycled and especially the latter felt a bit anaemic. Both are good records but pale in comparison to Rollins Band’s previous efforts.