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?