A Worthwhile Labor of Love

Black on Black (Initial Records)
Various Artists

By Jason Daniel

Tribute albums are tricky by nature - you can't please everyone. Inevitably, someone's favorite song will get left out or some band's interpretation of an original won't go over well. The best tributes capture the spirit of the artist without rehashing of what has already been done. That being said, props go out to Louisville's Initial Records for nailing down the Black Flag aesthetic by keeping it short, brutal and tight. Clocking in at under 30 minutes, this disc showcases nine of contemporary hardcore's best bands paying homage to the band that pioneered American hardcore more than 20 years ago.

In all honesty, it had probably been ten years since I last heard a Black Flag tune, but listening to this disc in my car, I was struck immediately by the urge to speed, run into fellow motorists and flip people off - and not necessarily in that order. And that's a good thing.

Those not familiar with the songs may find some of the lyrics hard to understand, but this is not an album about subtlety. Turn it up and hold on. On track 1, American Nothing crunches through "Depression" at breakneck speed and from there on, the album is a sonic assault. Listening to Mike O. from Burnt by the Sun shout "Drink!! Drink!! Don't Think! Drive! Drive!" made me feel like a pissed-off kid again, ready to do some damage to someone - including myself.

Hardcore fans will be glad to know that Coalesce makes an appearance (they've since broken up again) with "Jealous Again" and the Dillinger Escape Plan (with new vocalist Greg Puciato) do a medley of "Damaged I and II," which includes this album`s only real radical interpretation - a drum 'n' bass outro. But before you have time to wonder, the album closes with the Rollins-era classic "Six Pack" by Playing Enemy. I missed Rollins's sarcastic taunts ("I've got a six pack and nothing to do.... I've got a six-pack and I don't need you..."), but hey, read my first sentence.

Clearly, this disc was a labor of love for the folks at Initial. Included are some thoughtful liner notes and bios on all the bands. A nice touch for a tribute CD that gets the attitude right while giving the listener (at least this one) a welcome release. And if that's not hardcore, I don't know what is.