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Black Flag: Who's Got the 10½?: Live (1986)
Reviewer Rating: 3.5
Contributed by: JohnGentileJohnGentile
(others by this writer | submit your own)
Often the debate arises on whether it was Henry Rollins or Greg Ginn that ruined Black Flag. Sometimes Unicorn’s 1982-1983 injunction on Black Flag releases is singled out as the culprit. Despite valid points on all sides, the fact is that all three theories blaming someone for ruining Black Flag are wrong simply because Black Flag was never ruined. While the immediate differences between the pre-Damaged and post-Damaged output are quite striking, let’s remember that with every release, Black Flag evolved its sound going in dramatic new directions. What made Black Flag stand out is that it was willing to take risks that its contemporaries eschewed. Look at the entirely non-musical Dez-era song “Machine,” or Rollins’ version of “Damaged 1.” These songs stand as some of Black Flag’s greatest moments because they were risky, dangerous, and completely brand new. So, once Black Flag began to evolve past Damaged, it’s unfair to accuse the band of changing or being ruined. In contrast, Black Flag seemed to be the most punk of all by refusing to identify with a certain image, sound and vehemently remaining DIY. So on the band’s final release, the live Who's Got the 10½?, Black Flag matured into an infinitely interesting, sometimes meandering, improvisational unit.
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