Black Flag fails to enter a new era

Graham C Wheat, Editor-in-Chief

It has been nearly 30 years since any new, abrasive sounds have rung out from Black Flag, and, unfortunately, those sounds are best left in the past.

The iconic LA punk rock band has seen many ups and downs, and their newest album “What the…” is no different from the band’s checkered history.

This chapter in Black Flag history, however, is truly a marred one.

In August of this year, Gregg Ginn, an original member, began suing former members of the group who reunited under simply “Flag.” What ensued was bickering between former friends and court battles to see who was the rightful heir of the Black Flag moniker and everything that went with it.

While the courts ruled in favor of allowing “Flag,” which contained the majority of remaining members, it seemed like a bad taste was left in Ginn’s mouth, perhaps prompting the new blood that appears on the newest album.

While only one of the original members is present, Ginn, with the newest album, a fresh voice is fronting them. Some may know of the prolific southern California skater Mike Vallely from his history as part of the explosion of skating in the ’90s, and now the skater turned artist is lending his talents to an iconic name.

While the name is still intact and the newest album certainly sounds somewhat like Black Flag, “What the…” ultimately feels like a revival album, instead of Black Flag in a new era. What traps the album in this nostalgic feel is the recent trouble the band has experienced.  Without the original members of the band (like Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, and Chuck Dukowski) it isn’t the same music.

Simply put, although Ginn was and is a part of Black Flag, he isn’t Black Flag.

The signature guitar sound of old Black Flag is present on every track of “What the…” but after a while you get the feeling that Ginn is simply phoning it in, trying to rehash some bygone punk rock era that can never be recaptured. Not entirely unlistenable, songs like “Blood and Ashes” and “Shut Up” are well-played, and Mike Vallely has a great hardcore punk rock shout to accompany the familiar guitar riffs and rasping solo work.

They feel like any other hardcore punk sound. There isn’t that feeling to get up and break a lamp over a politician’s head, the angry call to action that is Black Flag. The reason is because the band is not the meeting of minds that it once was. Aside from a few songs, the album feels wholly uninventive and forced.

If you’re aching for angry punk rock, you will find it in “What the…” but remember that it is not the same Black Flag, merely Ginn posing with new members to recapture some type of punk rock revival. To find the essence and feel of Black Flag, head to your local record store or attend a punk rock show. You will feel much more rewarded than living vicariously through Ginn’s memories.