Fans that have only paid attention to Henry Rollins over the past few years probably only think of his spoken-word material. Witty and acerbic, Rollins has traveled the world for many years bringing his unique brand of storytelling to the masses.
But in 1994, it was a much different story. Rollins had begun his forays into spoken word while playing with Black Flag in the mid-'80s, but destroying ears with the Rollins Band was where his name and reputation were being solidified. After some lineup changes (most notably the exit of bassist Andrew Weiss after 1992's The End of Silence), the Rollins Band released what was arguably the pinnacle of the band's creativity with 1994's Weight.
Calling it the creative pinnacle is a rather subjective statement; many fans will clamor for The End of Silence and its most well-known song, "Low Self Opinion." But Weight is where the Rollins Band exploded into a wider audience and greater exposure, what with MTV playing the videos for "Liar" and "Disconnect" incessantly on its airwaves and its flagship "alternative" program, 120 Minutes (which aired at midnight every Sunday. Ol' Hank even took a turn at hosting one night, with the band playing in studio). "Liar" became the song that the band would be forever associated with, for better or for worse, and Rollins has even referred to himself as "the 'Liar' guy" in subsequent spoken performances.
As a recorded statement of the time, Weight still stands out. While other bands of the "alt-explosion" of '94 may have enjoyed more mainstream exposure, the Rollins Band received that same exposure almost as an afterthought. The Anton Corbijn-directed clip for "Liar" may have piqued the interest of new fans for a brief period, but the jazzy leanings (Fused with the loved hardcore style of singing/screaming that Rollins did so well) kept Rollins' previous fans guessing as to what was coming next. Tracks like "Fool", "Civilized", and the album-closer "Shine", all pointed to this. "Shine", in particular, holds up not only musically, but also as a personal statement. The opening line, "If I'd listened to everything that they said to me, I wouldn't be here" still resonates today, as it did 20 years ago.
The addition of bassist Melvin Gibbs on this release cannot be overstated. Simply put, his influence was all over this record. Weight took on a heavier groove than its predecessors, and the rest of the musicians followed Gibbs' jazzy lead. Make no mistake, Weight would not have sounded as it did had Gibbs not been brought into the fold.
Looking back at this record 20 years later, it's hard not to be struck by its timelessness. So often, records are a reflection of their era, whether it's due to technology, dated song references or just limitations of the musicians involved at that time. Weight holds up just as well in 2014 as it did in 1994. It's a powerful record that still deserves a place in any collection.