Damaged | Black Flag | 1981 | Spot | #363
I’ve made a point with every album so far to download the lyrics and do a bit of background research on the artists. This is surely something I won’t be able to keep up every day – not if I want to get any actual work done – but I’ve enjoyed the insight it has given me so far and I’m glad I kept it up on this occasion. On first listen this album is just obnoxious, rebellious teenage-angst, but after reading through the lyrics and giving it a few more plays I realised that it touches on deeper issues and even recognised in places the same attitudes and frustrations of today’s disenfranchised youth.
Damaged is utterly chaotic, hardcore punk. I found that it makes you stop what you’re doing and forces you to either actively participate as a listener or switch it off, I couldn’t find any middle ground. Henry Rollins coarsely howls the lyrics which are a combination of verbosely describing his various states of depression, how pissed-off he is with society, and satirically mocking certain aspects of American culture.
I used to hold the opinion that decent musicianship was seldom heard in hardcore punk bands (owing to too much prog-rock while my musical tastes were being formed) and although this album did feel a bit one-dimensional throughout, there were moments that forced me to not be a snob and to appreciate what was being played – such as the odd decent guitar solo from Greg Ginn. But picking apart the album for how it showcases technical skill is irrelevant and misses the point entirely, this is an album that simply wants to get across the feelings and moods of its creators and they don’t care if you don’t enjoy it; “It feels good To say what I want It feels good To knock things down It feels good To see the disgust in their eyes It feels good And I’m gonna go wild”.
Between this and Saturday’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables I feel like I’ve gained a new insight and rediscovered the meaning of punk (at least the early-80s American version anyway). The artists deliberately create an atmosphere and a presence that makes them seem hard and unapproachable, but at the same time they’re writing candidly about their fragile mental health and the injustices in society – which ends up being an effective method of rallying support, often among the liberal-minded politically-active youth. From the perspective of listening to their material in 2016, more than 30 years after it was written, I can read about how many of the artists from the time have gone on to dedicate at least part of their lives to liberal issues such as anti-war movements and LGBT rights (as is in the case of Rollins). Which for me adds to the charm of the genre.