After writing the book on hardcore on their first 3 records (while moonlighting as a tight reggae band on those same records), Bad Brains expanded their sound to include elements of thrash, funk, metal, and even a bit of hip-hop. Meanwhile their reggae tracks gradually switched from being breaks from face-pummeling hardcore to being the main attraction. By the time 2007's Build a Nation came out, the band's faster songs sounded more like an obligation than a passion. Where Build a Nation boasts some of the band's best reggae tracks period, the new Into the Future is their first record in 20 years to capture what made them legends in the first place.
Part of what makes Into the Future work is that even the reggae songs are played with intensity and distortion. Though Bad Brains has always been a solid reggae band, they are, were, and hopefully will continue to be a truly great hardcore band. So it's no surprise that the best songs on the record are also the fastest. “Yes I,” “Jah Love” and the title track are all welcome additions to the band's hardcore canon. The record ends with the horn-drenched “MCA Dub.” A tribute to Build a Nation producer and longtime friend and fan MCA (Born and bred Brooklyn USA, They call him Adam Yauch, but he's MCA.) The serene chant of “peace be unto thee” that end the album, is an unusually, but movingly personal touch for a band generally more focused on destroying Babylon.
It's maybe ironic that an album called Into the Future should find a band looking back on their long career for inspiration. But if a little nostalgia and reflection is what it takes to get songs like “Yes I” and “Jah Love,” then who am I to complain?
- Words by Nathan Leigh
+ check our interview with Bad Brains lead singer HR here.