Black Flag - The First Four Years (Cover Artwork)

Black Flag

Black Flag: The First Four YearsThe First Four Years (1983)
SST Records

Reviewer Rating: 5
User Rating:

Contributed by: JeloneJelone
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Keith Morris has had a pretty good year creatively and critically with OFF!, but his hardcore legacy always was assured. I'm not even referring to Circle Jerks when I say that either. No, Morris had a spot in the California punk canon thanks to the four songs that appear on Nervous Breakdown, a pivo.
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Keith Morris has had a pretty good year creatively and critically with OFF!, but his hardcore legacy always was assured. I'm not even referring to Circle Jerks when I say that either. No, Morris had a spot in the California punk canon thanks to the four songs that appear on Nervous Breakdown, a pivotal 7" from Black Flag. Those tracks, along with 12 other very important early Black Flag tunes, appear on The First Four Years.

Just so we're clear, Black Flag is one of the most important punk/hardcore bands of all time. Setting aside the raw, energetic music, if you enjoy independent music in general, you have to appreciate the work ethic that allowed the band to open up underground channels in the '80s via constant touring. Some people will (foolishly) tell you that Henry Rollins ruined the band, because apparently Damaged and My War weren't good enough for those jerks. But to be fair, when they hold up First Four Years, which features all the singers who took to the mic for Black Flag before Rollins joined the band, they don't appear totally wrong.

Morris fronts the best tracks of the comp. Nervous Breakdown is just as much the beginning of the Circle Jerks' sound as it is Black Flag's. "Nervous Breakdown," "Fix Me," "I've Had It" and "Wasted" are crowd-baiting bursts of anger and sarcasm. Morris fires off missives while Greg Ginn plows ahead on guitar. Black Flag eventually got sludgier and more expansive; nothing they did would ever be this fiery and direct.

Ron Reyes (a.k.a. Chavo) took over singing for follow-up EP Jealous Again, and while he does a decent job, he ultimately can't compare to Morris. Besides, the best song of that set was "You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You!", and the Flag gave that song to bassist Chuck Dukowski.

I back Rollins on Damaged, but Dez Cadena puts up a strong barrage on tunes like "Six Pack" and "Damaged I." "Machine" comes off a little too immature and sloppy all these years later, but the dude absolutely destroys "Louie Louie." If you like listening to white guys yell about beers, look no further.

It's easy to knock the Rollins years simply because his run comes with peaks and valleys. The First Four Years, however, is all high points, and in a way an ideal introduction to one of the best, most important, plain ol' good hardcore bands. Black Flag explored some more diverse territory later on, but the blistering focus presented here is terrifying.


People who liked this also liked:
Descendents - Milo Goes To CollegeClassics of Love - Classics of LoveThe Clash - London CallingBlack Flag - DamagedAgainst Me! - As The Eternal CowboyJawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge TherapyNOFX - Punk In DrublicJawbreaker - Dear YouMinor Threat - Complete DiscographyAgainst Me! - is Reinventing Axl Rose

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
bergman913 (July 6, 2013)

I used to think that Rollins ruined Black Flag when I was younger and pretty stupid, I guess. This was the first Black Flag album I bought, and the only Rollins song I knew was "TV Party", which I still am not a big fan of. However, once I bought Damaged, my mind totally changed. It was then that I realized that Rollins didn't ruin Black Flag, he became Black Flag. He didn't blend in with the music, he led it.

So, no, even when someone holds up this album while saying Rollins ruined Black Flag, they're still wrong.

d_boons_ghost (December 15, 2012)

"rollins period is better only for metalheads"

I disagree.

outbreak (December 12, 2012)

[i]his run comes with peaks and valleys[/i]

What valleys?

Rollins > Process of weeding out > the others

Amoeba (December 9, 2012)

I read this review, realized I didn't have this record, went to the store and bought it the same day. Conclusion : this record is freakin awesome !!!

I always considered My War as the best black flag record and never listened to the early stuff, but it seems superior in every way.

dboon (December 9, 2012)

rollins period is better only for metalheads

NattyBoh (December 7, 2012)

Great release. I like Morris the best. Rollins material was a bitter pill to swallow at first but I grew to like it over time... except for In My Head which is awful.

johngentile (December 7, 2012)

I think You Bet We've got something personal against you is the best song on jealous again.

It is a keith morris dis, you know. Perhaps the first direct dis record in punkrock? Crass dissed the clash earlier i believe, but did not dedicate a whole record to it.

elliot (December 7, 2012)

I like the review, but you must be the only guy in the world who thinks "You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You" is the best song on Jealous Again.

nedsammy (December 7, 2012)

I bet Dez was glad it wasn't him taking over from Kieth. Ron Reyes was great, "No Values" is one of my favourites. "Machine" is dick though.

chewie1234 (December 7, 2012)

This collection is absolutely CLASSIC but this review sucks ass!

I couldn't get disagree with this statement more: "Besides, the best song of that set was "You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You!" HARDLY!!!

eatbicycles (December 7, 2012)

I love Rollins. I love the songs most, I don't care who sings because all the singers were obviously fucking awesome.

bastard_squad (December 7, 2012)

The only Black Flag I care to own. I can't stand Rollins at all. This rules, Keith Morris is one of my favorite vocalists and has been since I was a kid.

misterspike (December 7, 2012)

Only one possible score for this. Important Record.

iwantyourskulls (December 7, 2012)

Also, Rollins>Morris>Ron>Dez

I will say that I prefer Morris as a singer overall, but prefer Rollins with Black Flag.

iwantyourskulls (December 7, 2012)

Is anyone actually not going to give this 5 stars? I doubt it.

imnotaspy009 (December 7, 2012)

i'm sorry, i'm a dick, but this has got to be possibly the worst fucking review for something as important as The First Four Years. it's ok punknews, just dont review it at this point...people probably know where they stand on around 30 year old incredibly important and unbelievable (guess you know where i stand) punk rock, and if they dont, this didnt help. guh, i really don't want to be negative, sorry...

johngentile (December 7, 2012)


johngentile (December 7, 2012)

Forgot ma score!

johngentile (December 7, 2012)

Perhaps the greatest punk recording of all time.

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