What a mighty strange time it's been lately for Black Flag fans. I assume that if you are reading this right now, you count yourself to be one of them. If not, boy, are you in for one uninteresting slog if you pursue reading this post. As many of you know, there's been a series of bizarre developments...
Ex-members Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski and Bill Stevenson - and now I'm told Dez Cadena is on board - and Descendents (a band who played here in Melbourne last night for the first time at the shitawful and far-too-big Festival Hall - I passed, despite my love for their '80s works) axeman, Stephen Egerton, have come together under the name "FLAG" to play the songs of, yes, I hope you guessed it, Black Flag, as a good-time/let's-party-the-fuck-down live act. They've been booked to play some high-profile festival shows throughout Europe and Las Vegas in the northern Spring. Given that singer Morris was just this week hospitalised and has apparently fallen into a diabetic coma, I'm assuming that the shows are currently in doubt. I saw Keith sing w/ OFF! just a couple of weeks ago, and, despite some friends of mine grumbling about his incessant ranting in between songs (and his remarks about the Vietnam War - "You guys know about this war? Were you guys involved?" Puh-leeeze!! - was deemed an unforgivable slice of classic Amerikan ignorance on some attendees' behalf), I placed myself front and centre, "pogoed" and even "slammed" and had a very pleasant night indeed.
And then there's Greg Ginn's new "band", Good For You (another terrible project name for the man), featuring himself and pro skater, Mike Vallely (or Mike V.) on vocals. Mike sang for Black Flag's disastrous Ginn-organised LA benefit show 10 years ago. You can hear a track here. The word from some quarters is that it's the most outrageously rockin' thing Ginn has done since the demise of BF in 1986. There's hardly any competition, although I will admit a fondness for the first couple of Gone LPs (when Gone was actually a "band") and that first Jambang disc of his a few years ago, a pretty cool blend of organic, minimal psychedelia complemented by Ginn's torturous guitar outbreaks (reviewed here). Good For You have recorded a debut album, naturally to be released on SST, and will play a number of shows throughout the US during the same period Flag has shows booked in Europe. The track featured in the link, "Blaze Of Glory", sounds more like Bl'ast! than Black Flag to these ears - slightly constipated and not fully rocking w/ the abandon it could - but I don't dislike it either. I'll keep an open ear and mind for the full-lengther.
And then there's... Black Flag. Black Flag 2013. Yes, Ginn is "getting the band back together", Blues Brothers style. Well, sort of. He's collaborating w/ the sole ex-member of the band who'll have anything to do w/ him - Ron Reyes - and going by his old band's name. Two others will be involved, a rhythm section featuring a possible guessing game of contenders - "Dale Nixon" (I'm told that certain clueless music journals even came to the dopey conclusion that Dave Grohl was playing bass, as he jokingly played on a Melvins record over 20 years ago under the Ginn-penned pseudonym. Ergo sum whatever) and possibly legendary skin-hitter, Robo - but probably the most disturbing element of this story is Ginn's promise that there will be a new "Black Flag" album by year's end. I can hardly wait. I haven't been this eager to hear a record since The Weirdness. Why has Ginn taken this unprecedented move? After years of bemoaning punk rock nostalgia and bumming everyone out with decades of unlistenable vanity projects which next to no one on earth has cared about, I can only surmise that it involves spite and money. If I'm wrong, Mr. Ginn, then please correct me. The man has few friends left in the music biz, and few have any good words to say of the man in the 21st century, despite his admirable and indeed Herculian musical achievements in the 1970s/'80s. The prospect of "Flag" playing some high-profile shows and probably pocketing a pretty penny for their efforts didn't upset my sensibilities for a nanosecond; after all, Cadena, Morris, Dukowski, Stevenson and Egerton likely all got royally screwed by Ginn back in the day (and continue to do so), and the first three names mentioned I rate as the coolest mofos who ever passed through the 'Flag door. Am I gonna begrudge their desire to rock it again in '13? No.
So where does all of this lead us? Absolutely nowhere. It leaves us with Hollywood stars like Ryan Gosling strutting around town in Black Flag fashion shirts. That's OK, I think he's a fine actor and actually has a background in "indie rock", so maybe he's a fan for real. There are real issues in this life to be mortally offended by. It just means that no one is immune from nostalgia: certainly not me and not even those who claim to disdain it. Ironically, there's an interesting article here in Forbes(!!) magazine detailing the different Black Flags making headways in 2013. Everything you once loved will be whored out for cash at some point in time, and you just gotta deal with it. The struggles of the '80s are over, and now it's time to make some money. I guess it beats "clocking in" 9 - 5.