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Bad Brains 

Build a Nation (Megaforce)

With Bad Brains' prominent appearance in the documentary American Hardcore, the presence of producer Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys and the twelve-year wait since 1995's God of Love, anticipation for the group's new album has been running high. A triumphant comeback could drag the self-sabotaging Rasta-punks back from a career purgatory marked by the drug addiction and undiagnosed mental illness of legendary singer/asshole HR. Alas, Build a Nation isn't it, and Yauch's production doesn't help. On the rockier tracks, HR's vocals either strain to be heard through layers of murky echo, or they're mixed so loud they almost drown out guitarist Dr. Know's still-nimble riffs. Maybe Yauch was just trying to liven up the flimsy, bland chugga-chugga metal-core songs. The Bible-thumping reggae numbers (five of the fourteen tracks here) hold up better under Yauch's rampant gimmickry, but still — why, for instance, is that husky voice whispering "un, deux, trois, quatre" on "Peace Be Unto Thee"? Are Rastafarians supposed to be a lost tribe of Frenchmen now? At its best, Build a Nation carries the faintest glimmers of Bad Brains' bygone might. Most of the time, it'll remind you why you didn't care about God of Love.

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September 23, 2020

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