Black Flag - Family Man review


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Band: Black Flag
Album: Family Man
Release date: September 1984

01. Family Man
02. Salt On A Slug
03. Hollywood Diary
04. Let Your Fingers Do The Walking
05. Shed Reading (Rattus Norvegicus)
06. No Deposit - No Return
07. Armageddon Man
08. Long Lost Dog Of It
09. I Won't Stick Any Of You Unless And Until I Can Stick All Of You!
10. Account for What?
11. The Pups Are Doggin' It

Ah yes, the infamous Family Man album from hardcore legends Black Flag; if you think Metallica's Lulu was pretentious and all kinds of weird, well wrap your ears around this. Beatnik poetry done by hardcore punks followed up jazz done by hardcore punks, when you hear a band call an album experimental, you have to wonder whether they mean tinkering around the edges or full on identity crisis ala Family Man.

Featuring only one track where Rollins is singing over the band, it is a wholesale change from what the band had released to this point. Taking apart what made the band, you have Rollins doing some spoken word poetry for half the album and the other contains some punk infused jazz tracks. Separating these two sides of the coin is "Armageddon Man", which merges these two elements together and serves as a sea change from one to the other.

It's hard to really review Rollins' side of the album (tracks 1-6) as it's just him spouting off some spoken word stuff (and nowhere near in the same vein as his later career). The only thought I can mention beyond "what the hell am I listening to" is that "Let Your Fingers Do The Walking" sounds like it could use a rap beat beneath it, before it goes off on a tangent, eventually getting brought back to the main refrain.

The second side of the album sees the band sans Rollins try their hand at what can best be described as jazz. It isn't bad, but it's not good either; it's listenable but not something I'd want to hear except in very rare doses. Ginn's guitar sounds really dissonant, but has a bit of an 'it's so weird it's kind of good' charm thing going for it. Roessler and Stevenson try to anchor whatever Ginn is doing down to some kind of song, but it just sounds like a cacophony, albeit one with some sense of structure to it.

When the two elements work together ala "Armageddon Man", you end up with the worst of both worlds as you have Rollins going off on one on a track that has no rhyme nor reason to it. Artistic? Maybe, listenable? No.

Credit where credit is due though, the band put out the record they wanted to and did not compromise on artistic vision at all. The idea of the album is admirable, even if the execution is… well, this. It is probably the most punk thing they could have done, spun a 180 and did the opposite of what anyone would have expected from an album that had Black Flag stamped on it. While I am quite negative on this album, I respect what the band have done here; I may not like it but I'm guessing pleasing their fans wasn't the main purpose of this album.

I'm not going to rate this as it would be codifying an album by measurements that aren't built for this purpose. Try weighing an elephant using a single ruler and a can of pepsi (even MacGyver couldn't do that) and then get back to me how I can use the same measurements on Family Man that I could then apply to Lacuna Coil or someone else.

Written by omne metallum | 17.07.2020


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