Album Review: Bad Brains – Into The Future

Bad Brains fail to do justice to their own legacy.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson


Bad Brains

Into The Future

Megaforce Records


I really didn’t want to end 2012 by writing a bad review for one of my hero bands, but alas, that’s what it’s come to. The Bad Brains is a band that is so much more than the sum of their parts. These men, Dr. Know, Darryl Jenifer, HR and Earl Hudson, created music that was the soundtrack to our lives, they created the bar that everybody else is trying to raise, at least in hardcore and punk. The ROIR Cassette? I Against ? Quickness? Rise? There is nothing that even comes close to these records. No matter what order you put them in personally, the result is a flawless catalog surpassed by none.

Later recordings would fall short of that greatness. God Of Love’sover emphasis on reggae was an Achilles Heel, and with Black Dots being a collection of early joints and I & I Survived a remix album, nobody was sure if the band could get over personal drama and drop some new revolutionary shit on the masses. In 2007 hopes were raised when late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch stepped up as producer for Build A Nation, the first batch of new songs since 1995. Those hopes were dashed when Build A Nation fell victim to a slew of suspect production decisions and a bizarre over-dedication to sounding “old”. Now we’re in 2012 and Bad Brains have released Into The Future and, well, hopes are going to be dashed again.

I’ve seen a smattering of glowing reviews for this record and I just don’t get it. Some are quick to say that the Bad Brains have “returned to their former glory.” No they haven’t. They’re trying to, but it isn’t working out for them. Into The Future has less to do with Bad Brains getting back to basics and more to do with them trying to recapture something that isn’t there. I won’t say the passion is gone because the band always seem so genuine, but the fire is low, the burn is soft and the magic doesn’t pop. I wanted so badly for Into The Future to be great, but after repeated listens it falls squarely into the realm of average.

Into The Futureopens with the title track, which is a paint-by-numbers “punk” groove. The worst part is HR’s voice isn’t the commanding presence it once was. Now he sounds like somebody doing and impression of him. “Popcorn” follows and has the most annoying chorus in recent memory. Every time HR squeaks out “How many beautiful girls do you luv that come from Southeast Rasta” or some equivalent of that line, it’s like audio nails on a chalkboard. As Into The Future continues to burn through the thirteen tracks, one is reminded of tepid bands like Infectious Grooves, not the greatness of the Bad Brains.

Everything on this album isn’t a failure. “Come Down” is a fast paced ass kicker, as is “Yes I”, but the power of those songs is stopped cold by limp “dub” numbers such as the abysmal “Rubadublove”. Another problem with Into The Future is a real lack of cohesion. Bad Brains have always been so solid with blending their reggae, funk and punk influences. This time out they just piece-meal the album together, which kills the flow from song to song.

Some will say I’m living in the past and that no Bad Brains record will ever live up to their initial run. To that I say no. I’ve never been one to castrate a band just because they aren’t repeating what they once did. The problem with Into The Future isn’t that it sounds like the Bad Brains stretching their creative muscles too much, but more that it sounds like them trying to imitate themselves. My respect for the Bad Brains will never waiver, they have given too much to my life and to the world of music for it to fade. That being said, I also don’t have to hero worship a record that does nothing to further the Bad Brains legacy.