Bad Brains - Rock For Light (Cover Artwork)

Bad Brains

Rock For Light (1983)


I reviewed Bad Brains' s/t under a slightly different moniker and thought I'd review this album too. Anyways, Bad Brains' debut was a cassette only release on ROIR. Ric Ocasek of the Cars heard it and to decided to produce the band's follow-up, which is basically a remake of their first album.

Rock For Light is one of the most annoying albums I've heard in my life. Mr. Ocasek must not be familiar with black people and music. It's all about the bass, listen to rap, funk, reggae, R&B. The bass is drowned way into the backround, to the point if you can hear the bass, it sounds like a palm-muted guitar. This makes the reggae numbers abysmal, I'd rather listen to No Doubt's ska or whatever the hell people call it than this garbage. I bet Lee Perry turned over in his grave when this was released, assuming he's dead, but I'm not sure. Bad Brains' reggae/ska was mediocre for the most part, on their debut it was actually really good, but this stuff...terrible.

The hardcore tunes from the first album are the basis for this album, and they're faster on this one. However, faster doesn't mean better. Especially with HR's voice on this one. He doesn't even bother to sing most of the time, it's all his speed rapping. Irritating, he sounds too whiney, like a little kid. I want to smack him and send him to his room without supper. He also ad-libs way too much, don't tell me he doesn't get on your nerves. Rock For Light doesn't have "Pay To Cum", why the hell not? That's their most known hardcore song. The fastest thrasher off the debut, "Don't Need It" (I guess not), isn't on here. As much as I like "The Regulator," they did the world a favor by not putting it on this album. The production would ruin that cool bass intro, driving me to throw the CD out the window instead of using it as a beer coaster. Don't get me wrong, "Rock For Light," At the Movies," "How Low Can a Punk Get?" are some examples of how much ass these guys can kick. Excluding the reggae, the songs are top notch, but the production and HR ruin everything.

But the sound is clearer people say. Yeah it is, but when you can't hear all the instruments, what does it matter? The drums are nice and crisp, not muffled like on the debut, but the bass, where's the bass? Like with the debut, there's two guitars layered in the mix. One plays rhythm, while the other handles solos(I'll just say lead for lack of a better word). They screwed up with that, too. The "lead" guitar isn't loud enough, and it seems to be separated into one speaker, while the rhythm is in both and louder. That was smart. Atleast on the debut, the guitar solos were louder than everything else. The guitar has a metallic tone on it, which makes me believe this was supposed to be a speed metal album or something.

There's not a bad hard rocking song on here, but jeez, Ocasek must be taking his anger out on the world by making other bands suffer because the Cars suck, or because he wasn't getting any from his supermodel wife. I can't believe people consider this the pinnacle of hardcore punk. It's faster, sure, but there's no energy on this album. The debut made me get up and kick ass, while listening to this makes me just sit there. The absense of the bass drains out those awesome ass-grabbingly good beats.

If you haven't heard anything of theirs yet, get this, otherwise you'll probably hate the band and Ric Ocasek(if you don't already).