Black Flag - Loose Nut (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Black Flag

Loose Nut (1985)

SST Records

Released as part of ‘84-‘85 album deluge, Loose Nut feels like a band re-energized, but also a band that’s a little too light on editing. My War and Slip It In drew the line in the sand that Black Flag wasn’t just Damaged and that to them, the gap between ’81 and ’84 was an eon.

If anything, the 84-85 albums, with their linear and riff-centric progression stated that the band didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as either ”hardcore” or “punk” and frankly, the music from that period was often more heavy metal than punk. The band would struggle with this identity, as while there are some riff monsters from the period (i.e. “My War,” “Scream,” “Rats Eyes,”) there’s also a lot of filler.

But, at least during the Loose Nut period, the band found a semi-happy medium between their impulses. “Annihilate” is nearly a straight-up metal song rooted in one of the band’s most crushing riffs. It’s telling that Ginn, who is master of the oblong, tricky riff, is able to so easily craft and simple, hard riff that is as memorable as any other metal classic. Yet, while Ginn was continuing to progress in his experimentation of both the intricate and the pure, his lyrical ability wasn’t what it once was.

“Annihilate”’s cynical message of hatred for “normies” might have been somewhat identifiable to a nerdy 14-year old punk rocker, but its black and white message didn't have the timelessness or masterful ambiguity of songs like “Nervous Breakdown,” “Wasted,” and “Depression.”

By this time, Rollins was in full-on Rollins mode: manic, angry, and ever so serious. But to be fair, it worked. In a genre that is wall-to-wall posturing, it never felt that Rollins was trying to be anything other than himself- or at least his exterior vision of his best self. Add on top of that, Rollins was growing out what a lot of teenage boys had rumbling through their mind without fear of editing or icing over his raw emotions. To his credit, when Rollins rode the Sabbath riff of “Modern Man,” you believed him, or at least the emotion that he was describing. And of course, that emotion was contempt, with a healthy dose of frustration. That’s particularly impressive since the song is dismissed bassist Chuck Dukowski’s last contribution to the band.

Later on, Black Flag would sink itself with aimless jamming and underbaked tunes. Those problems were creeping up through the seams on Loose Nut which felt more like a collection of songs as opposed to the singular Damaged and My War. Despite the harbinger of rot that lay ahead, Loose Nut bore the rare distinction of being a rushed release that captured impulsive energy more than it suffers because of it. If only all of the later day recordings could say the same.