Reviews Bad Brains Build a Nation

Bad Brains

Build a Nation

These reunions need to stop. Gorilla Biscuits? Cool. Bold? Okay. Bad Brains? No. Honestly, what was Beastie Boy Adam Yauch thinking when he was producing this pile of garbage known as Build a Nation?

Truth be told, I’m relatively new to the Bad Brains catalog. Having listened to them for only a year or so, I’ll admit they are a long overlooked gem. Still, it’s clear to me, a considerably new fan, Build a Nation is a stark contrast from the Bad Brains most of us have come to worship. Every aspect of this album, right down to the actual artwork reeks of laziness. Perhaps in their old age H.R. and the gang have gotten comfortable, thinking less about the music itself and more about the marketing opportunities. Somehow the words of Minor Threat’s “Cashing In” are ringing in my ears.

From a sonic standpoint this album sounds like shredded garbage. Once again I say shame on you Mr. Yauch. Didn’t your band just release an instrumental album? I think you would have an exceptional ear for tonal quality. Now I’m well aware that the quality of The RIOR Sessions material is lo-fi due to the recording capabilities available at the time, but all the punk songs on Build a Nation sound like bad thrash recorded with a four-track inside a garbage can.

In regards to the songwriting itself, the reggae songs are okay, period. They aren’t amazing nor are they complete shit. If you dig that sort of thing, I imagine you’ll like these songs. The punk songs, however, are just plain terrible. Yes, they’re fast but still seem slower than the blitzkrieg that were songs like “Attitude” and their most famous track, “Pay to Cum.” The worst parts though are the vocals; if it weren’t already impossible to make sense of H.R.’s mystic ramblings, there is a dramatic overuse of some studio effect, perhaps delay or reverb, so that there is a terrible echo on a good portion of the vocals. Simply terrible.

And we must not forget the artwork. The cover art isn’t terrible; a variation on the logo, that whole fight Babylon stuff. But it’s inside where things get spacey, quite literally. First problem, no lyrics, normally this wouldn’t be a huge issue but like I stated in the previous paragraph, it’s nearly impossible to make out what H.R. is saying. Rather, there is a drawing of the inside of a futuristic space vessel looking out into space. There are no long-term effects of smoking marijuana? Hmm, yeah right.

In short, this is the worst album I’ve heard all year and probably the lowest review I’ve given on this site. Perhaps their live shows are little more promising, but even Jah can’t save this album.

4.5 / 10Scottie
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Tor Johnson Records
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