“Playing a song on loop is a common publicity stunt to mark a radio station’s format change,” SFGate assures its readers, many of whom might fear Latino Mix 105.7’s decision to go non-stop Nelly is actually some sort of Trilateralist / Illuminati signal aimed at Zeta Reticuli / the Lizard People to let them know the time for full global invasion / permanent McRib reintroduction is nigh. I’m taking that over the more depressing “some of our readers might be too young to have any kind of understanding of terrestrial radio practices.” Oh, you young people and your companions! I vex you!
When I was a high schooler in Central Florida this alt rock station popped up called 93.1 (the) KRO (have always assumed they were trying to snag some of that dark heat from Brandon Lee’s Crow). KRO announced their arrival with twenty-four (plus?) hours of Pizzicato Five’s “Twiggy Twiggy,” a.k.a. that “out there” Japanese song Beavis & Butt-head ripped into on an episode of their show. You remember. Beavis & Butt-head cracked a lot of jokes about the one guy in the video looking like Chip from “My Three Sons.” Is any of this even registering as English to you dumb kids?
KRO did several other Twig-a-thons before turning country in 2000, to ring in the New Year or Halloween or an event of real significance like Larry the Cable Guy’s birthday. I remember my friends and I being all a-titter a week in advance of one of these broadcasts. “Twiggy Twiggy” was considered by many at that time to be one of the most annoying aural properties ever created, and I think we reveled in the fact that it would be inescapable to a certain extent. Of course, anything is annoying after twenty-four hours, even Larry the Cable Guy (I know, heresy).
Hats off to the fearless broadcasters who keep this practice alive. I could barely commit to anything past eight minutes when I was a college radio deejay. I think I faded Black Flag’s “Process of Weeding Out” halfway through every time I put it on.
You kids have to know Black Flag. I’ve seen you Photopasting with the logo on the e-mails! THE E-MAILS!
YOU DAMN KIDS, GET OUT OF MY ROCK GARDEN!
So what’s the most shocking aspect of Black Flag’s sudden reunion album, the appropriately titled What The…? The simple fact it exists after two decades of minimal stirring? The shiteous cover art that I think we all want to believe is awful on purpose? My vote goes to the astounding truth that the music within sounds like it’s being played by the real Black Flag, the tank-like ’80s outfit we all hoped would magically appear at our high school and start a police riot with their unique brand of disturbed, violent punk rock.
Not only is What The… better than it has any right to be twenty-eight years after the fact, it comes offensively close to being great in various pockets. Raw, nutty, heavy—these guys roll over the gate like they’ve been locked in a storage closet since In My Head. Founding guitarist Greg Ginn can still warp your mind with his playing, be it with gobs of gluey riffage or pointedly fractured soloing (Ginn also handled the gut-slapping bass lines that lay the foundation for What The…). Similarly, returning Flag singer Ron Reyes can still summon up that angry wayward teen who splattered his vocals across several of the band’s early lynchpin releases.
Unfortunately (you knew that was coming), What The… dampens its fire by handing out too much of a good thing. Forgetting that brevity is the soul of punk, Ginn and Reyes force us through twenty-two angry noodles when an offering a third that length could have comprised one of this year’s more invigorating EPs. It’s never a good sign when the listener needs to take a lunch break midway through an album. It’s even worse when the listener wants to. The contents of your refrigerator are sure to excite on a James Bond level once you’ve been confronted with the malaise that hangs over backend What The… cuts like “Lies” and “Give Me All Your Dough.”
As of this writing, Reyes is already out of the reformed Flag, having been ousted in favor of professional skateboarder Mike Vallely (who can also sing, apparently). Based on the meandering, circular nature of What The…, Black Flag doesn’t need a new singer so much as they need an editor. Of course, this is the band (the punk rock band) that released four albums in one year during their heyday, so I guess in a certain light we were spared the true onslaught. Twenty-two songs—can you imagine how much shit might be cluttering the cutting room floor?
FINAL SCORE: Two pastrami sandwiches on honey wheat (out of four).
If I’m reading the latest in the Black Flag lawsuit kerfuffle correctly, Greg Ginn and his label SST Records do not own any copyright on Black Flag or its related trademarks, Henry Rollins and Keith Morris might own some kind of copyright, Greg Ginn never quit Black Flag despite not performing with or as that band between 1986 and 2013 (save the one-off charity concert he played in 2003 with the robot bass player)*, and Henry Rollins also never quit Black Flag because he literally never said in writing or verbally “I quit.”
If this donnybrook goes to court (which “they” say is unlikely at this point) I hope it yields a diagram or chart outlining each member of Black Flag and whether or not they ever quit. Maybe everybody’s still in Black Flag! You hear that, Emil Johnson? YOU MAY ALREADY BE A MEMBER STILL.
Interesting to see the judge note “no likelihood” of consumer confusion between Black Flag and FLAG. I’m very confused whenever my friends talk about these bands because they all have a habit of calling the latter “Black Flag.” I think this stems from the fact eighty guys from Black Flag are in FLAG. Thus I am always forced to ask, “Are you talking about Black Flag featuring Greg Ginn and Ron Reyes or are you talking about FLAG, all caps, featuring Keith Morris and all those other rockin’ dude-meisters?”
Of course, consumer confusion is a moot point since Joe Law has decided Greg Ginn doesn’t own the trademarks. Kinda seems like nobody owns ’em right now. So don’t worry, guy who is currently Photoshopping the four bars logo into a handful of tampons captioned “KOTEX FLAG”—nobody from the band is gonna sue you. At least not today.
* – I am acutely aware Henry Rollins ends his Black Flag tour diary Get In The Van with an entry recounting a phone call between Ginn and himself during which Ginn quit the band; although Ginn’s never challenged this story he’s also never confirmed it as 100% truth (as far as I know). Not that I’m taking his side. Motherfucker tried to reunite Black Flag with a robot.
A: There ain’t much to say. A legal dance was inevitable the minute these dueling reunion factions rose up. I’m sure Greg Ginn truly believes he owns the exclusive rights to the word “flag.” I’m sure Keith Morris et al purposely named their reunion thing FLAG just to drive needles into Greg Ginn. I’m sure everyone involved realizes the Black Flag of 1981 would settle all this with a fistfight in a 7-11 parking lot. I’m sure the Ramones should have taught a correspondence course before they died called “How To Be In A Band With People You Hate And Make Money And Also Hang On To That Money Because This Shit Called Illegal Downloading Is Coming And VH-1 Is Eventually Gonna Run Out Of Specials To Put You On.”
Was gonna put a BF logo parody here, but this image is more apropos.
[Flag, the more name-heavy of the Black Flag reunions, treating Moose Lodge 1873 in Redondo Beach, CA to a secret show, 4/19/13]
– thank you, Chuck Dukowski, for bringing a splash of color to this shindig
– I’m surprised the band didn’t institute a “no cell phone” rule to prevent the tangled mess of arms rising up from the crowd; on the other hand, when’s the next time most of Black Flag’s gonna be at your local moose lodge?
– feel like maybe they hung those antlers up for effect
– in a surprise to no one, this reunion performs with a degree of excellence, probably because no robots in sombreros are involved
– the person recording this made some weird cuts, such as editing down the tension-fraught bass / drum opening of “No More” (WHICH IS KIND OF THE WHOLE POINT OF THAT SONG BUT W/E)
– Egerton nails Greg Ginn’s guitar tone; again, not a surprise as he seems like something of a Ginn disciple, but still, I didn’t assume he’d be this on target
– this has no relevance to anything but I met Egerton after an ALL show in 1997 and he was really nice
– Flag hits it out of the park on “My War”
– am I on drugs or does the band look “professionally lit?”
– “My kids are out there!” Chuck says at one point in reference to the crowd, seemingly amused that his children even exist
– I think “White Minority” has always kinda spoken for itself and doesn’t necessarily need further defense, yet Keith offers one any way (something about his grandma sexing Native Americans)
– when Dez Cadena takes over on vox for a few songs his stage patter makes him seem like a “down to Earth bro” I’d “like to have a beer with” (I’m actually being sincere)
– Dez gets a little Vegasy in “Thirsty & Miserable” and I ain’t mad at that!
– closing with “Louie Louie” hit this brother hard in the heart for some reason, maybe because that seems like a true Black Flag move, in the true spirit of the orig band
– DUDE NO “TV PARTY” WHAT THE FUCK THAT’S A “FALSE FLAG” IF I EVER HEARD IT LOL LOL LOL
A: No. I’ve never really thought of myself as having the right kind of body for tattoos. I always figured they’d look weird, like I was trying to look tougher than I actually am. Like overcompensating.
Only once did I seriously consider getting inked. When I was nineteen I accompanied my friend Justin to a tattoo parlor in Daytona Beach because he was getting some asian symbol on his arm (as was the style at the time). During that trip I almost convinced myself to get Black Flag’s famous logo stamped somewhere on my frail barely adult torso, but I didn’t have quite enough cash and I was also worried that I might not be championing Damaged as strongly at age eighty. So that was that.
For a while in the mid-2000s I joked with people that I was going to get a back piece of Chewbacca driving the Ectomobile through downtown Oslo with the Ramones and Richard Nixon in the back, all wearing ghostbusters jumpsuits, but that would probably take centuries to complete (and hurt like a bastard).
Euro friends: you too will soon have the opportunity to see each version of the reunited Black Flag as both factions are scheduled to invade your shores this spring. Greg Ginn’s “Black Flag” featuring Ron Reyes and Dale Nixon is booked for the Ruhrpott Rodeo on 5/18 in Hünxe, Germany; Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski’s “Flag” featuring Bill Stevenson and a Descendent will be appearing twice at Deutschland’s Monster Bash Festival (4/26 in Munich, 4/27 in Berlin) and once at Belgium’s Groezrock Festival (4/28 in the scenic municipality of Meerhout). What’s next, showdowns in Canada, Japan, and the Falkland Islands?
Now, the $64,000 question: which Black Flag would I see if someone put a gun to my head? I’d be inclined to choose the Ginn / Reyes situation only because I’ve never seen either of those guys in concert. What if by some miracle they blow the doors of the place? Also, the possibility of viewing a robot bass player in a sombrero excites me. Keith Morris, Bill Stevenson, and S. Egerton are all really talented and fun but I’ve seen them loads of times performing with other bands, and I get the distinct feeling their “Flag” performances won’t have the same element of surprise or danger (read: a robot bass player in a sombrero malfunctioning).
In a related story, I’ve come up with a few more great titles for the new “Black Flag” album Ginn and co. are finishing. Hey Greg and Ron, feel free to swipe any of the following: Jealous Again (Again); Oh, That’s Who Had The 10½, Thanks For Letting Us Know; The Process Of Smoking Tons Of Weed & Deciding This Is A Good Idea; Slip It In Again But Not Too Far (I’ve Got Work In The Morning); My War 2: Fight For Your Right To Artie Lange.