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Bad Brains @ House of Blues 09/26/07

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The last time I saw DC punk icons Bad Brains play live was in a big hall somewhere in Long Beach or Pedro circa 1987. HR still plays solo projects, and sometimes they come around billed as Soul Brains, playing mostly reggae. Wednesday night was a rare opportunity to see the original lineup play their punk rock catalog.

Their new record, Build a Nation, produced by Adam Yauch, is definitely reminiscent of their early stuff. Bad Brains play punk and they play reggae. They don't mix punk and reggae into a melange of ska-dance hits as many OC bands did in the 90s. The songs are either punk or they are reggae, and they are pure. The punk songs on Build a Nation have the same relentlessness, the same chugging rhythms and familiar 8-note patterns that we have come to expect from the genre. Frequently Bad Brain's bass and guitar play the same notes, with the drummer hitting one beat per note, so the entire band achieves a unison of sound. The reggae on the new album explores a little more dub, but keeps to the Bad Brain's slow, steady reggae beat.

Wednesday night's show at the House of Blues was a good mix of oldies, with just a few songs from the new album. They dipped heavily into Rock for Light and I against I, which is exactly what I was hoping for. There was also a high punk to reggae ratio. They came out strong with I Against I, and then just stayed with the fast and mid-tempo (creepy-crawl slamming tempo) songs for much longer than most bands would (or could).