Black Flag - Loose Nut review


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Band: Black Flag
Album: Loose Nut
Release date: May 1985

01. Loose Nut
02. Bastard In Love
03. Annihilate this Week
04. Best One Yet
05. Modern Man
06. This Is Good
07. I'm The One
08. Sinking
09. Now She's Black

The general consensus with Black Flag is that after Damaged the band went off the rails and became a warped caricature of what they used to be; while this is isn't without merit *coughFamily Mancough*, Loose Nut shows that this can't be attributed to all of their post-Damaged releases.

Yes, the album trades in the all-out aggression of old for an experimental (though still at times intense) sound that sees the band go places you wouldn't expect, nor would you expect them to work. It is art rock meets hardcore; I can easily see how some would instantly reject this sound but if you are able to stick it out then you will find a good album behind the wackiness.

Even if you can't stand the idea of Black Flag as anything other than unadulterated hardcore, then tracks like "Best One Yet" and "Loose Nut" have you covered. Leaning more on metal than hardcore though, it trades in rough edges for added steel weight that will still give you your fix and then some.

Still, I would recommend giving some of the experimental tracks a go, for while they're left field they aren't bad. "Modern Man" and "Now She's Black" stand out as the best two of the lot; while they do take paths you wouldn't expect, you are able to follow where they're going before they bring you back to the route you were taking.

What Loose Nut has in its favour though is that when it does experiment, it does so with a production that grounds it, preventing it from floating away in its own meanderings. Stevenson and Ginn give the album a more rounded and heavier sound so that even though the band eschews intensity, they still sound powerful. That said, Ginn's guitar does sound thin, particularly when he plays single notes rather than chords; it adds a discordant element that doesn't fit too well, especially during some of the solos and songs ("I'm The One" and "This Is Good").

Where does the album falter? Well, given that it was an experimental album, some were likely to fail and that is true of tracks like "Sinking" and "This Is Good", the former being a lethargic walk to nowhere while the latter is anything but what it claims to be. While challenging the listener can sometimes work, these tracks throw down the gauntlet to reveal two middle fingers pointing square at you. The only challenge is how long you can hold off hitting the skip button.

The band are on fine form otherwise; it's not for lack of conviction or effort that the album falters, with each member playing as if their effort alone could win over any skeptics. Roessler may not have the thundering rumble of Dukowski but she matches him in terms of quality and skill, even with the handicap of having some crap to work with. Stevenson is tight behind the drums, which is necessary as it keeps everything within a pandora's box rather than just pure anarchy should he have played loose. Ginn and Rollins are both on fine form; while they trade in their intensity for precision it doesn't make them worse at what they're doing.

If you want to explore post-Damaged Black Flag, I would recommend starting from here and then start spreading to their other records. Loose Nut is a strong collection albeit with a few mis-steps, well worth a listen.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 7
Production: 7


Written on 09.07.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.

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