Friday, November 11, 2016

Bad Brains for Breakfast? Better ask Bella!

Another in a long-running series in which the Vinyl Vagabonds attempt to determine what record to play based on the opinion of a pet, house plant, or inanimate object.

As we all know, breakfast record selection can be tricky.   The Vinyl Vagabonds sympathize with you.  While VVer #1 typically goes with any old platter, VVer #2 has far less tolerance in the wee hours of the morning.  This aural sensitivity may very well be the product of the actions of the prior night.  Out late?  One cocktail too many?  Too energized to sleep?  Insomnia?  Up early and ready to conquer the day?  Ok, the last one rarely occurs.

This is how the VVers have come to trust Bella, their fish (a Bushy Nose Plecostomus), for her record selecting acumen.  She serves as a neutral party, blessed with stellar musical taste (and impeccable taste buds).  On a recent morning while sprinkling flakes in for the guppies, VVer #2 almost certainly heard Bella bubbling over the gurgling filter, "blurp blurp, Bad, blurp, Brains."  What, what, huh?  Bella wants to hear Bad Brains Rock for Light over breakfast?!  The VVers usually don't take requests... but... why the heck not?  Ok!

Luckily, the fishy-face knows a thing or two!  She knows that VVer #2 does enjoy crazy, loud punk with her hand-ground coffee.  Slow down for a second though, aren't intense vocals in the morning a bit rough?  What helps is that those vocals are screamed so you can barely decipher them; that's a different story.  Bella also knows that this particular Bad Brains album has a few calmer reggae tracks to balance the start of the day.  Nice choice fishy!  Now if the VVers could just train you to help flip the record...

Rock for Light is Bad Brains second full-length album.  The Washington D.C. band has a fairly tumultuous reputation for highs and lows but this album came at a time (1983) of experimentation and transition that worked very much in their favor.  Each and every hardcore, proto-metal, and reggae track on Rock for Light seems totally unencumbered by thoughts of what the outside world might care for.  Bella knows this and makes sure the VVers are aware it's her fave.  She loves the soulful flow of "I + I Survive" just as much as she gets her flippers flipping for the frenetic "Banned in D.C."  Who could blame her?  Tracks blend seamlessly from genre to genre in total sonic precision.  The LP was produced by Ric Ocasek of pop act The Cars, lending it a crispness that is often lacking from low budget punk recordings.  Bad Brains are masters of the mixed genre.  No band handles punk and reggae so equally well--The Clash, of course, being a close second.  When the first calm track, the (comparatively) lengthy "Rally Around Jah Throne" morphs effortlessly into the riotous "Right Brigade," which features three distinct tempo sections, you start to get an idea of what these guys are capable of.  Starting off with a riff that would easily be the envy of any grunge band, going into full-on shit-kicking punk, and ending with earworming guitar solos.  All showered with the growls, yowls, and belted yelps of H.R. totally losing his mind.  Beautiful.

This album has enough churning guitars to pulp your juice, tempo-shifting drums to get you chugging your coffee, and multiple personality vocals from H.R. to jam your toast.  It's "got that attitude" to get you amped up for your day.  Every good fish knows it.

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