Bad Brains, the album that is better known to the public as “Banned in D.C.” will be the album that sparks a punk revolution. Bad Brains was a legendary group that seamlessly blended both raw aggression and slowed reggae to spread peace, love, and empowerment through music.
Bad Brains opens to the clash of drumsticks deciding the tempo to what would become one of the catchiest songs on Bad Brains line-up. “Sailing On” would become a staple in music history, the vocal performance from front-man H.R., the bands quick fingers on both the guitar and bass from Dr. Know and Darryl Jenifer, and the iconic drums being played by non other than H.R.’s little brother Earl Hudson, creates a frenzy and flurry of emotion that pours in within the track’s first four seconds.
The band had an established following in their hometown of D.C. for not only being Rastafarians that played punk music, but for their off the charts level of energy they brought to shows. Stage diving, wild dancing, and mosh pits were all synonymous with Bad Brains, and D.C. would soon have nothing to do with that.
The Track “Banned In D.C.” would touch upon their short-lived banned in the clubs and lyrics like “Banned in D.C. with a thousand more places to go.
Gonna swim across the Atlantic, cause that’s the only place I can go,” show their disapproval with the ban. It was not entirely surprising to see Bad Brains banned, but it was surprising to see how wildly successful the band was despite the ban. The group would move to do tours all over the United States, Europe, and pretty much any place that wanted to see Bad Brains destroy a venue.
Wild, belligerent, but still at a moments notice, able to calm down and go into a slow melodic groove of jazz, complimented with reggae. The group was able to understand how important the merging of multiple genres was in music, and were able to blend them perfectly.
Bad Brains will go from tracks like “The Regulator,” “Attitude,” Supertouch/Shiftit,” “Big Take Over,” and even “Right Brigade,” to the tender and tranquil tracks like “Leaving Babylon,” or “Jah Calling” where they could be played in a late night jazz club. Bad Brains has these breaks in the action, but they are done so well for the album has this great motion and flow that keeps the breaks feel so significant to the the record.
Not only is Bad Brains a punk hybrid, with reggae influences. They are actually social commentators that give the voiceless a voice in all the confusion that is daily life. Punk music was freedom and was a liberating way to express oneself in the 1970’s, just as it is today. Bad Brains shows how the punk mentality is not just for a single group of people, it can work for everyone and music can connect one branch of people to another.