One would have to figure that Greg Ginn is feeling pretty good these days. His reconstituted Black Flag seems to have survived 2013's assault from the legion of former Compadres in Crawl and the very public drama of Ron Reyes's exit. Disaster Amnesiac cannot make an informed judgement on Flag's new rhythm section and the singing of Mike Vallely, on account of herniated disc. My ticket sat unclaimed at the New Parish box office as I essentially could not get out of bed in May, when Black Flag's 2014 tour rolled into the Bay Area, without experiencing real physical agony. Thankfully for this listener, SST has released new sounds from Ginn's musical mind, and as Disaster Amnesiac's back continues to heal, it's quite a bit easier to walk over to the stereo and press play.
Hor-Can't Make It Up; SST Records, 2014
It's not shocking to say that Greg has been a man of multiple voices for some time now. Since the early 1990's, SST has focused pretty much exclusively on the myriad bands and projects that he dreams up and throws down onto tape at Casa Destroy. Disaster Amnesiac recalls Mark Prindle's excellent interview with Ginn, in which the later defined Hor as more of an Electronica influenced band, and I can hear that. Big, melodic keyboard riffs are laid down over Greg's rubbery, sometimes fuzzy bass lines. The tunes move along these currents while that characteristic skewed six string melodic sound then oozes and flies off of his fingers and into your ears. Can't Make It Up is definitely made up of layers of this action. In this sense, the Electronica comparison rings very true; put on headphones while you listen to it, and marvel at the intensity and multiplicity of lines emanating from the melodic instruments utilized. Additionally, one can really hear some of Greg's best guitar playing on this disc. He just continues to develop his technique, and the payoff is SOUND.
Drummer Sean Hutchinson pushes the jams with absolute steadiness and creativity. No more can SST detractors use the "drum machine" canard against its bands. His sounds are live, and lively, bumping along with discipline and funky, syncopated flair. Disaster Amnesiac imagines a really bright future for Hutchinson's music career. Top notch drumming here.
Can't Make It Up is stately instrumental cruise into Ginn's more colorful Psychedelic Jam Band side. Get in the (Volkswagen) Van!
Good For You-Fucked Up b/w Steam Roller; SST Records, 2013
As opposed to the blissful stylings of Hor, Good for You pushes a heavy Punk Rock/Hardcore Punk feel with their sounds. Co-conspirators Mike Vallely and Greg Ginn stomp out a funk injected jumper on the title track of this 7", while drummer Mike Shear grooves along mightily. Disaster Amnesiac would compare Fucked Up to Black Flag angst anthems on the Damaged LP, as it most definitely drips with the energy of adrenalized anger so evident on that one. Of course, Greg's guitar sounds cutting and great within the caterwaul. Vallely's clearly feeling the darkened emotions deeply. Good for You seems to feature the venting of frustration a lot, and he does a fine job channeling it with his vocal delivery. On the flip, Steamroller's double time guitar riffing blasts away atop Matthew Cortez's energetic pounding. This one's a real headbanger, as the lyrics lay waste to the (always, it seems) fading American Dream and its human wreckage. Disaster Amnesiac hears Greg's guitar solo and feels proud of my country, though. And to think, I'm currently "between jobs"! The tune also features a nicely integrated theremin noise blast! I feel like any discerning Punk Rock fan would be fine shelving this one next to their 7" copy of Nervous Breakdown or Paranoid Time. A classic, short rip from SST.
Disaster Amnesiac is beginning to wonder if and when Black Flag will record and release new tunes with their new (improved?) lineup. It seems likely, given Greg's penchant for constant development from all of his bands/projects. Until that time, I'll be digging these two SST releases. Perhaps, when I find permanent employment again, I'll splurge and buy a new SST coffee mug for my new cube/desk/cell. Hopefully that time, along with the release of said new Flag LP, will arrive sooner rather than later.