Saturday, June 16, 2007

BL'AST! - Take The Manic Ride CD (SST/1989)

Aww, come on, it musta been at least 2 or 3 weeks since I last mentioned an SST release, and the mighty Bl'ast! (don't forget the apostrophe and exclamation mark!) are always good for a hoot and a holler. Much like SWA, I get a feeling that Bl'ast! are considered a joke band more than anything one would really want to sit down and listen to for real. Fact is, if you believe Henry Rollins' side of things, Bl'ast! were considered a joke band by even Black Flag themselves when they first played w/ them, as Hank noted in Get In The Van. Ginn and co. apparently guffawed at the band's blatant theft of 'Flag's look and sound, right down to Bl'ast!'s see-through drum kit and guitars and emotion-packed performance. Actually, my bro and I used to laugh our ass off at photos of Bl'ast! from fanzines back in the '80s, as it seemed like every single shot of the band had to be one bursting w/ such intensity it looked like a member was going to burst a blood vessel. And these were live shots w/ the band donning Gone and SWA t-shirts!

OK, so it's 2007, and the question is: are Bl'ast! worth giving the time of day to? That's a big YES from me. They released 3 albums back in the day: 1986's The Power Of Expression, '87's It's In My Blood and this, their '89 swansong, which is probably my fave. If you check out their Wikipedia entry, you'll not only discover that the band actually formed waaaay back in 1977 as M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction... aaah, the old three-initial HC trick) you'll also learn that the band began "dabbling in funk" soon after the release of Take The Manic Ride, though thankfully we were all spared any recorded documentations of such experiments. For their 3 SST albums, their sound keeps to a fairly basic formula: take the heavy-duty punk/rock sounds of 'Flag ca. Damaged/My War/Slip It In/In My Head and attempt to construct your own songs around said formula. Then add lyrics concerning personal pain, anguish and betrayal. Stir, bake and serve. Hey, I'll give 'em this: it's a good formula. Like the 'Flag, Bl'ast! knew the art of the swing. They never "thrashed" but instead gave every song the classic tension/release signature: build it up and bring it down then build it up again. Take The Manic Ride gets a bit more proggy in its structures - some guy in his Amazon review compares this to Voivod and King Crimson - which I guess means the band was taking the logical musical route from Damaged and My War right on through to Family Man's prog-damaged instrumental B-side cuts and various Gone platters.

The band actually reformed briefly in 2001 for a series of shows - I have an issue of Heartattack fanzine (oh, the shame!) from the time w/ them on the cover - though it looks like they've called it quits again. Giving these three a spin in recent weeks, I'll throw in this opinion: Bl'ast! made some of the better American hardcore punk albums of the latter half of the '80s. I mean, was there any competition?


Mrow said...

Despite my vast knowledge of all things SST . . . I must admit I have never spent much time at all with the BL'AST! catalog. And it wasn't the negative connotations of the FLAG-ripoff tag they shouldered that turned me off, either - like you, I woulda been happy with a dozen bands rockin' that formula as powerfully.

It was their top-heavy sound/mix that I couldn't get past. I mean, BL'AST! was all about that gtrist (and maybe that limited vocalist, too). He's wailing mightily and all . . . but the bass, the drums, the deep rhythm action just seems left behind in the dust. It's like FRANK MARINO & MAHOGANY RUSH gone HC - all flash and no substance. Kira and esp. Bill Stevenson were soo much more intergral to what made FLAG great.

Me I prefer that CLOWN ALLEY "Circus of Chaos" LP from '86 that Southern Lord reissued last year - but I suppose that's "crossover" not HC.

G said...

Hmmmm...Flag may have derided them but I'm pretty sure Chuck dug them for real- he signed them to SST and I think he would've liked Flag to continue in that same heavy vein. Rollins was in his "I'm Nick Cave" auteur phase so whatever...
I saw Blast live a few times and it was always a high-energy gig. In fact I saw them with St. Vitus in a gig that birthed "stoner rock" - some of the future Fu Manchu members were there as they used to have a very Blast!/SSD band...Virulence maybe??

Dan Celebrity said...

I didn't really get Bl'ast! at first. On their first tour, I saw Annihilation Time and they were pretty much a Bl'ast! tribute band at the time. For some reason, after that show, Bl'ast! made sense. Now I listen to 'em over and over again!

There are demos that exist of post-Manic Ride stuff. It's weak, but not terrible. The stuff I heard's almost grunge-esque. The M.A.D. demo, now there's some great stuff. I think I have another demo too, but it's on my old computer.

Great band. There's no shame in the SST worship.

Dave said...

Yep, gotta admit, the production on some Bl'ast! ain't that good, and Take The Manic Ride is probably the band's worst SOUNDING release. It needs more bottom end; the guitar sounds so trebly it hurts the ears when played at a fairly normal volume. But the SONGS are their best. BTW, Bl'ast! are NEVER meant as a Black Flag substitute - the original always sounds better - but if you're sick of spinning My War or Slip It In, they're not a bad place to go to next.
Dan: I've heard Annihilation Time. Pretty good, total Bl'ast!/'Flag damage, but again, well done.

Jay said...

I saw BL'AST live at least once, maybe twice, and there's no way they formed in 1977. These were KIDS - Black Flag-worshipping skater kids from Santa Cruz who looked all of 21 years old, tops. I love that G. mentions "Virulence", though - saw them too, with D.R.I. I'm pretty sure (sigh).

Dave said...

Jay, are you trying to say that ever-reliable sources such as Wikipedia and All Music Guide might've made an error? I was surprised by the 1977 mention, too... maybe they formed when they were in primary school a la Redd Kross??