photo & text by nacrowe
the BAD BRAINS phenomena, like all of the 80s HARDCORE PUNK scene, was one generation before me. i never saw them live. but i often feel like all of the INDIE and ALTERNATIVE ROCK music i grew up on in the 1990s is very much the ripple effect of this band and specifically the power of their seminal self-titled debut BAD BRAINS (ROIR, 1982) record. bands ranging from FAITH NO MORE, JANE'S ADDICTION, FUGAZI, SOUNDGARDEN and DEFTONES to LIVING COLOUR, BEASTIE BOYS, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE and NIRVANA. their sound is marked by an incredible unspoken CHEMISTRY and sense of MUSICALITY that can be described as a hybrid between a subtle and deft use of EXTREME DYNAMICS (almost JAZZ-like) coupled with an unparalleled FEROCITY and BRUTALITY that was entirely jolting and UNPREDICTABLE on first listen.
and to me it is that unbridled ENERGY that marks this legendary band.
you watch old live clips and you realize this band was completely out for blood. their performances were just pure UNPREDICTABLE, KINETIC mayhem that seemed to be the result of a preternatural level of COMMITMENT and TECHNICAL ABILITY. POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE indeed. watching such comes across like the unadulterated real thing. like "this" is what ROCK N ROLL should be. end stop. and it makes perfect sense that their live show was so POTENT and COMBUSTIVE that it became too much for clubs in WASHINGTON D.C. to handle, making way for their move to NEW YORK CITY where THE YELLOW TAPE was haphazardly recorded on a reel-to-reel tape at a live gig in ALPHABET CITY.
this record, like much of the HARDCORE releases in general, was less about sound quality and production as it was about ENERGY. when guitarist DR. KNOW kicks in on the opener "SAILIN ON" you very much know its on. same can be said for H.R. and his uncanny VOCAL PYROTECHNICS on celebrated tracks like "BIG TAKE OVER," "PAY TO CUM" and "BANNED IN D.C." its just powerful. its the type of record you listen to from front to back and wonder where you where for the last half hour.
i revisit this BAD BRAINS record often, no doubt in part due to the fact that every subsequent band i love points right back to this specific record by this unique band as a defining experience and a primal scene in their formation as a musician. THE YELLOW TAPE is required listening for anyone interested in NYHC, PUNK ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK, INDIE ROCK, HARDCORE PUNK or related genres like METALCORE and POST HARDCORE. this is a widely influential record that is most definitely worth check it out.