BAD BRAINS: GOD OF LOVE (1995)
1) Cool Mountaineer; 2) Justice Keepers; 3) Long Time; 4) Rights Of A Child; 5) God Of Love; 6) Overs The Water; 7) Tongue Tee Tie; 8) Darling I Need You; 9) To The Heavens; 10) Thank Jah; 11) Big Fun; 12) How I Love Thee.
Good news: H.R. is back (again), giving the band a chance to remind us of why we ever bothered reserving a separate line for them in the first place. Bad news: what good is being given a chance if you are completely disinterested in taking it?
In a way, actually, this is even worse than Rise. That album may have been generic and negligible, of marginal interest for meticulous thrash collectors, at best, but at least it was consistent: «Israel Joseph I» was willing to adapt to whatever Dr. Know was playing, and if they did not succeed in too well in tapping into one's emotions, at least they tried. But with H.R. back in the band, it seems as if the two main participants pay as little attention to each other as possible. The guitar player is still punching out second- and third-hand metal riffs — and the singer is whining or barking against them in an ugly nasal manner that does not agree with the style at all.
The result is a lengthy string of songs that lack any sort of purpose. There are good and bad albums out there, tasteful or corny, innovative or formulaic, catchy or unmemorable, but records like these, in a way, are the worst of the lot because I honestly cannot figure out why they exist at all. To keep up conveying H.R.'s personal take on the Rasta stuff? But how does this personal take agree with the all-too familiar power chords and metal arpeggios from Dr. Know's fingers? To kick ass? But how do you properly kick ass with such a mentally unstable guy at the wheel? To prove that Jah loves metal no less than he loves reggae? But they already did that on I Against I, and it must have been obvious to everybody except for the most obstinate ones that it only got less and less and less convincing from then on. It is not simply a dead horse they are flogging here — it is a horse in the last stages of decomposing.
Not a single interesting riff, not a single melody worth remembering or discussing, not a single moment of being «impressed». Out of sheer curiosity, you might try the opener, ʽCool Mountaineerʼ — it is quite typical of the entire album: a roaring mid-tempo mess of power chords, auto-piloted «ecstatic» solos, and a misplaced H.R. gleefully cackling some nonsense about how "like a bird in the tree, Cool Mountaineers shall be free". If you find something in there that I have not been able to, more power to you — not that I was trying real hard, but then again, it is supposed to be somewhat of a quid-pro-quo process, and there was no initial act of giving. Nary a tiny hint that someday, someway, ʽCool Mountaineerʼ might turn out to have something of value.
The reggae numbers are back with a vengeance, too, no less than three or four of them, and even if reggae, unlike metal, is the motherland for Bad Brains, they are hardly working its fields properly — at best, Dr. Know is having himself some «fun» with various electronic effects (ʽTo The Heavensʼ), and at worst, it he is not doing anything at all (ʽOver The Waterʼ, generally unlistenable as H.R. is practicing his vibrato — regular nasal whine is bad enough, but vibrating nasal whine is a Nazi-worthy device).
And it is all wrapped up with ʽHow I Love Theeʼ, which is not even as much reggae as it is a combination of sterile modern R&B and adult contemporary — the band tries to end things on a tenderly sentimental note, and you can rather safely predict that it will be just as bad as everything else, and maybe worse, because «sentimentality» is one thing that could never be associated with Bad Brains when they were at their peak.
As is usual for this stage in their career, the personal and communal life of Bad Brains at this juncture was far more exciting than their musical development — the laziness and ineffectiveness of these songs rather surprisingly contrasts with H.R.'s ongoing erratic behavior, including fights with skinheads, security guards, and managers while touring, and eventually, getting kicked out of the band once again. Might make for some exciting reading if you're into tabloid stuff — but it has nothing to do with the disgusted thumbs down awarded to the accompanying pablum.
Check "God Of Love" (MP3) on Amazon