Black Flag - Down in the Dirt [digital single] (Cover Artwork)

Black Flag

Black Flag: Down in the Dirt [digital single]Down in the Dirt [digital single] (2013)
SST Records

Reviewer Rating: 3.5
User Rating:

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

"Down in the Dirt," the very first studio release from the reunited Black Flag opens with Greg Ginn's distinctive guitar, and after thirty-six years, Ginn's guitar still has that distinctive, dread-inducing tone. After thirty-six years, it still has a twisting cadence, constantly bucking the metered.
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"Down in the Dirt," the very first studio release from the reunited Black Flag opens with Greg Ginn's distinctive guitar, and after thirty-six years, Ginn's guitar still has that distinctive, dread-inducing tone. After thirty-six years, it still has a twisting cadence, constantly bucking the metered measures by milliseconds, giving the music a snapping quality. Although Black Flag would create nine-minute complex jams near the end of their initial existence, and Ginn would go on to record ever longer epics post-Black Flag, "Down in the Dirt" is a compact three and half minutes. In basing the song on a single riff that appears to be simple, but is modified by Ginn's slight shifts, the band seem to be making the argument that Black Flag's sound stems first and foremost from Ginn.

In contrast to the earliest Black Flag tunes which would grow in intensity until blasting apart, "Down in the Dirt" is more in line with their later work, a brooding, slow burning number that increases in heaviness as it goes on instead of suddenly erupting. Black Flag always made it a point to progress forward, and here the music shows the band taking the more compact aspects of their earliest incarnations and using the it push forward the moody aspects of their later pieces.

Meanwhile, second Black Flag vocalist Ron Reyes still sounds fantastic. Despite being over fifty, his voice still has a youthful tint that's able to sharpen at a moment's notice. Lyrically, the band continue the darker lyrics from Black Flag's later days. Reyes calls out "I'm down in the dirt" while the music forces him down further.

"Down in the Dirt" isn't an instant Black Flag classic, but as Ginn has shown over the years, he's more interested in writing songs to be studied, instead of picked up at a moment's notice. Really, if the new Black Flag are able to stretch out the mood of this song across a whole album while keeping the variations interesting but digestible, the new LP may prove to be an compelling, daring release.

On a related note, while issuing this song, Black Flag included a note "not to be confused with the ‚??fake' Flag band currently covering the songs of BLACK FLAG in an embarrassingly weak "mailing it in" fashion." The whole statement is a real bummer, forcing one to affix the current Black Flag/FLAG dispute to the music itself. (Also, from what I saw on youtube, FLAG performances have been pretty damn intense). Until now, both camps were keeping it classy.

Ron Reyes was quite vocal in stating "In some ways, it's unfortunate because a few so-called 'fans' like to stir up a lot of heat. I don't want to get involved in that. I love all [the guys in Flag]. I wish them all the best." Meanwhile, FLAG's Stephen Eggerton stated "I don't know the full details of what Greg and Ron are doing. I think what was happening there was that they were already kind of talking about doing music together and were going to call it Black Flag. I don't know if that was in response to what we were going to do. The way I look at the situation arising is just that as a fan, now there's twice as much opportunity to see something related to this great music. So if I get a chance to see Ginn's Black Flag, I'll definitely do it, for sure." Keith Morris said "I believe that it's a coincidence and that's all good. It's a party. Everybody gets to bring their flavor to the party." Even Chuck Dukowski took a gentlemen's "No comment."

The comment by Black Flag, which I would guess was not from Reyes, starts a mud throwing contest that doesn't need to exist at all and causes focus to be put on the wrong aspects of either band. If you want to show who is a better band, let's settle this on the stage.


People who liked this also liked:
Bad Religion - True NorthLagwagon - HangBlack President - Black PresidentRancid - …And Out Come The WolvesGood Grief / BUZZorHOWL - split [7-inch]Apathy Cycle - Clockwork County [EP]Billy Talent - Billy Talent IIIBilly Talent - Billy TalentAnti-Flag - For Blood and EmpireReservoir - I Heard You As I Walked Away [EP]

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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.
davebrave4 (May 13, 2013)

"It's hilarious that people get all up in arms about it."

People got "all up in arms about it" thirty years ago when they changed their sound the first time. Did you really think people would be any less critical now that the existence of two (Black) Flags & the ensuing controversy has opened up the floodgates to even more intense scrutiny?

overdefined (May 13, 2013)

Test 2

smelltheglove (May 10, 2013)

D-Lo Brown

lmchc (May 9, 2013)

St. Damaged

brangelina (May 8, 2013)

this is good kids music for sure.

TomTrauma (May 8, 2013)

This is not bad. Definitely better than 90% of the "punk" that the staff gets so excited about.

aubin (May 8, 2013)


orgcorepunker (May 8, 2013)

I've heard worse songs. I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I'm sure I have.

needs (May 8, 2013)

hardly the worst thing i've ever heard, but i'm not terribly impressed. an average track, at best. i'm not terribly knowledgeable about black flag's post-damaged music (i just... never cared) but this sounds like what i can only assume to be an amalgam of the old and the new. and quite frankly, it bores me arse off. i'd rather hear keith and co. "mail it in" than watch greg ginn further embarrass himself. however, i'm cautiously raising my coffee cup in hope that the finished lp will make me eat my words. very, very cautiously

Love this track. Love it.
It's hilarious that people get all up in arms about it. I love that as well.

Ravnos (May 8, 2013)

I don't hate this as much as MisterCarnivore does, or even dislike it that much really, but it's not a very good song overall. There's some interesting things happening here but the whole thing lacks energy. It sounds like a dad rock version of Black Flag. I'm curious to hear what the rest of the album sounds like, and maybe this song fits in better as part of a whole, but this isn't really a good sign so far.

aaronrkc (May 8, 2013)

it's just bad dude

blatz89 (May 8, 2013)

I'm glad that Black Flag (or at least, their moniker) is doing something, but it just sort of felt like they weren't really into it, and in music which isn't exactly sonically complex, it's VERY important that you "feel" what you're playing. It just sort of comes across like they felt like they HAD to record this.

nedsammy (May 8, 2013)

Nice guitar tone, miserably piss-shit terrible fucking lyrics, boring everything else. Mailing it in indeed.

conduit (May 7, 2013)

This song isn't even worthy of a review of any kind, complete fucking trash, shit is St. Anger Metallica status if not even worse. WOOF

slowstupidhungry (May 7, 2013)

My opinion hasn't changed. This was so overtly terrible that I am glad some people are deluding themselves into liking it, that's how embarrassed I am for these guys. I cannot imagine anyone under any circumstances enjoying this. I imagine Ginn unveiling the "new Black Flag track" to his friends and family playing out about the same as the debut of Poochie the Rockin' Dog.

wallofyouth (May 7, 2013)

i think i love this song

telegraphrocks (May 7, 2013)

Not bad.

hobbzoid (May 7, 2013)

it's fucking horrid.

MisterCarnivore (May 7, 2013)

It lacks any sort of fire, I don't feel any sort of intensity like I feel listening to any other Black Flag material. Even during their instrumental stuff you ALWAYS know who it is that you're dealing with because of that intensity. This doesn't sound anything like that. It's boring; it's completely blase. It sounds like recycled and re-purposed QotSA riffs. There are certain moments during the bridges that pique my interest and make it seem like they could salvage the song a bit, but it's during those same moments that a few of the songs glaring problems come to light.
1)The bass. The god damned bass in this song is absolutely dreadful. Normally if you would use a description like "all over the place" to describe a Black Flag song, you'd end up with somebody telling you that's what it's supposed to sound like. But not here, it's like the bass has gained sentience and is now actively fighting the rest of the track, like it KNOWS this reunion isn't a good idea and it wants to try and stop it the only way it knows how: by fucking it up himself. It's out of time and it doesn't even try to match up with the rest of the track. Atonality is one thing, but this just sounds awful.
2)What is up with that theremin? Who thought THAT was a good musical element to introduce to BLACK FLAG? Trying and introducing new musical elements is ambitious and there is place for its commendation, but that is most certainly not the case here.
3)It's dull. It's so dull. I don't want to stomp around to this song. I don't even want to stand up to this song. It just plods itself along for three and a half minutes at the same tempt until it graciously ends. I don't hear an intense jam session in this; I hear a bunch of musicians standing around bored and failing to do anything worthwhile with their material.
4)The bridges may be the only decent sections because Ginn's little guitar twist distracts from the dull horror of Ron Reyes' vocals. He doesn't sound like he's giving even half of his all to this song, which is weird because I've HEARD Reyes performing live very recently and he definitely still has it. He just isn't using it here.
5)Intro-Verse-Chorus-Bridge-Verse-Chorus-Bridge(extended with theremin)-Verse(with theremin)-Chorus-Bridge(as outro). That's it. Songwriting is supremely uninteresting.

Needless to say, I am not a fan of this song.

chargerbandit (May 7, 2013)

Oh boy...rubbish. It's just not the same, and for the record, FLAG in my opinion is much better.

stivy (May 7, 2013)

this is one of those times where I want to give a song 5 stars just because of the band even though the song itself is not that good.

davebrave4 (May 7, 2013)

That statement from the band was so generic and unnecessary, I initially thought they were just being facetious.

overdefined (May 7, 2013)

2 stars at best.

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