BLACK FLAG: SLIP IT IN (1984)
1) Slip It In; 2) Black Coffee; 3) Wound Up; 4) Rat's Eyes; 5) Obliteration; 6) The Bars; 7) My Ghetto; 8) You're Not Evil.
Definitely an improvement over the excesses of Family Man and an overall better balanced collection than My War — for what it's worth, this might actually be the finest of Black Flag's releases in the oh-so-prolific year of 1984. Most of the tracks work as actual «songs», sometimes sillier than necessary, sometimes longer than they should be, but the important thing is, the talents of Ginn and Rollins seem once again to be put to good use.
Okay, so I am not altogether sure what to think of the title track, whose title is to be understood quite literally (featuring future L7 guitarist Suzi Gardner engaging in a strictly adult conversation — and simulated activity — with Rollins). From an innovative point of view, this may be the first ever attempt to use hardcore punk, rather than the more traditional genres of R&B and funk, as the musical equivalent of violent intercourse; but even with all the sex noises generated by both participants, the track does not become particularly «hot» or «sexy». As a soundtrack to having sex, it's not particularly well applicable — you probably won't be able to keep up the speed (and if you will, physical injuries to both parties are imminent). As a metaphor on the brutal underbelly of sexual relations, it may lead to uncomfortable associations and conclusions — "you say you don't want it, but then you slip it on in" is kinda risky. But, on the other hand, you don't have to admire the song — you just have to admit it's... different.
It is much easier to admire ʽBlack Coffeeʼ, one of the band's strongest anthems — a fantastic concentrated burst of dark energy, where Ginn's sludgy hard rock riff and Henry's chorus roar work in full unison. Like the title track, ʽBlack Coffeeʼ has nothing political about it — it is a song about the effects of jealousy — but it is extremely vivid, and conveys emotional frustration so well that it is quite easy not to notice the irony behind the cover (expressed mainly through Henry's over-exaggerated intonations, and some of the lyrics). In fact, Rollins sounds even more like a researcher, exploring various psychic types, on this album than he used to before. When he is not moralizing in a straightforward manner (ʽYou're Not Evilʼ), he is busy drilling into the soul — to understand its limitations (ʽThe Barsʼ), its mutant ugliness (ʽRat's Eyesʼ), its pretentiousness (ʽWound Upʼ), or its poverty (ʽMy Ghettoʼ). I'm not saying it all works, but it is certainly more interesting than if the band had simply decided to put out another generic batch of political rants.
Unfortunately, the music shows no breakthroughs (not that Ginn would have enough time for any breakthroughs, what with the frantic workpace of the band and all) — same old broken riffs and dissonant solos, with the songs distinguished mainly by their tempos and lack/presence of vocals (ʽObliterationʼ is a lengthy instrumental). If it weren't for Henry's raw passion and actor's talent, Slip It In would not have been that much different from the second side of Family Man, maybe with the exception of a couple fast and focused riff-rockers. And even Henry is not enough to justify the seven-minute running length of ʽYou're Not Evilʼ — it is fun to see them switch between different tempos with such ease every few bars, but midway through, it becomes predictable, and two-thirds into the song, annoying.
Still, this is such a strong rebound from the misguided experimentalism of Family Man that I give the album a thumbs up without a shred of guilt. «Existentialist hardcore» with a Freudian subtext is, after all, just the kind of thing that this band was sent down to Earth for — if they are not always as good at it as we'd like them to be, that's just because it is really hard to be constantly good at it. Probing the dark depths of your soul at those speeds and with that sort of vocal range can only be that much successful, and I'm perfectly okay with being impressed by about half of Slip It In (ʽBlack Coffeeʼ is classic), and letting the other half roll by on impulse. And ooh, such a suggestively blasphemous album cover, too!
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