Bad Brains - Build a Nation (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bad Brains

Build a Nation (2007)


The Bad Brains have not released a full album's worth of new material since the poorly recieved major label effort God of Love in 1995. I, personally, have found every Bad Brains release (including God of Love and the HR-less Rise) to have at least a couple really good songs on them. The band has always been, regardless of HR's antics, a tight and extremely potent musical force. Now they're back with the original lineup and have unleashed upon the world Build a Nation. In many ways this album is a return to form for the Bad Brains...although, that may depend on what you consider a 'return to form' to be.

If you are hoping for something similar to Bad Brains or even Rock for Light then you may be slightly disappointed. On the other hand, if you loved 1986's I Against I, you are going to be more than pleased by this batch of songs as they most closely resemble that album, both musically and production-wise. Beastie Boy Adam Yauch seems to almost go out of his way to make all of these songs sound as if they could have been ripped straight from the aforementioned album, which is in a no way a bad thing.

Musically, Build a Nation is roughly half hardcore (8 songs) and half reggae (6 songs), which I'm sure will make most long-time fans very happy given the heavily reggae-oriented leanings that God of Love had. And since I know it is bound to come up, I will say now that there are no lyrics on this album that could be deemed homophobic by any means, although the lyrics are still unsurprisingly spiritual in nature.

Admittedly, this is not a perfect album; I could have done without "Give Thanks & Praises" and I would have liked to have heard HR go a little nuts like he did on those earlier records, but by and large this is a strong addition to the Bad Brains catalog. Songs like "Jah People Make the World Go Round" (which may be the best Bad Brains song since 1986), "Universal Peace," and "Send You No More Flowers" remind me why I started listening this band in the first place: brutal blasts of hardcore backed by HR's infectious, soulful croon. Despite his lack of aggression, the frontman is otherwise in surprisingly amazing vocal form throughout the roughly half-hour duration of the album. The reggae tracks are mostly very good as well, with "Peace Be Unto Thee" my personal favorite.

Not only more consistent than much of the Brains' `90s releases, Build a Nation ranks up there with the better of the band's output. In a nutshell, Build a Nation should perfectly please fans of the legendary hardcore act.