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

Black Flag

Down in the Dirt [digital single] (2013)


"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.