Black Flag, Slip It In – Retro CD Review

This record is a masterpiece. I will start this review by making this statement. Black Flag, as you know, were the ORIGINAL hardcore band, even though their sound really was NOTHING LIKE subsequent bands in that scene. They were also, of course, the vehicle for the jumpstart of Henry Rollins’ career, and I know you all LOOOOVE him. Slip It In is their third album, released in December of 1984, and it features some longer songs than previous material, and also the lovely Kira on bass. So let us get to the meat of it!

I know I have been critical, in the recent past, of other bands for lengthy song times, but the title track is so damn sexy that I can’t help myself. This song has my dancing around the apartment, if I were there writing this, instead of at the student library. As it is, my leg is going a million miles an hour and I have a hard-on. “Slip It In” starts with Rollins and future L7’er Donita Sparks conversing as if he is trying to get in her pants, and that is all the song is about. “Black Coffee” is a tribute to the way of The Descendents, as drummer Bill Stevenson was doing a stint with Black Flag at this point. It is relatively juvenile, but carries the energy that Black Flag were famous for in their early days. Not bad; I’ve heard worse. “Wound Up” is basically the follow-up to My War‘s “Beat My Head Against The Wall”, but I like this one better. The breaks are TIGHT, especially with Stevenson on drums. I always said that he MADE Black Flag memorable.

“Rat’s Eyes” is a slower song, and yet again shows more complexity to their rhythms and melodic lines (which I will admit are a little difficult to find at times). The low, sinister, creeper-like tone which Rollins employs on this song would occasionally help him later on a few solo recordings, and shows a diversity not normally seen in the Southern California punk scene at that point. I’m proud of them!

“Obliteration” is an instrumental, and the direction in which it carries the album, and subsequently, the band, is a trip of both good and bad. At just under six minutes, it probably lasts a little long, but there is so much going on in the song, it is extremely tolerable. There is an underlying theme throughout, surprisingly, and yet there is progression in the melody. Who knew that a California punk band would rank alongside prog-rock bands, nearly thirty years later? Unfortunately, the band would continue along this vein in later recordings, and eventually would alienate the fans who had supported them by going on lengthy jam-metal trips at live shows, and later on put out the fiasco In My Head.

“The Bars” is probably my favorite of the tracks on this album. It starts out pell-mell from the beginning, and speaks about the idea of life being a prison that we are trying to break free of constantly. I think all of us have felt this way, at one point or another. I especially love “My Ghetto” because it is short and to the point. This is where I live and when you come in, here is what you should know to expect. Just over two minutes and we are on to the next song of the album, “You’re Not Evil”, the closer. This is probably the weak spot of the album. It walks through with almost an “I don’t need to do this” sort of attitude, and then starts running as if it has somewhere to go, only to begin strolling again. It just doesn’t feel right. The structures are all wrong, the melody is hard to find, and Rollins can’t seem to make up his mind as to how he wants to perform this song: well, or half-assed? And as if that weren’t bad enough, it drags on for seven-plus minutes. I will admit, I am often hard-pressed to listen to this song more than halfway through. It’s one redeeming quality is the Greg Ginn guitar solo which starts at approximately four minutes into the song, and continues for about forty seconds. Now that it has finished playing, shall we talk about the cover art?

Raymond Pettibon (Greg Ginn’s brother) did most of their artwork, and this one is one of his masterpieces. I know we all love it. The nun is holding on to the naked man’s leg. What more can one say?

OVERALL RATING: On a scale from one to ten, this earns a solid ten and a half (humorous reference to another Black Flag song). Seriously, I give it an 8.5, only because of the ending; if it hadn’t been for that travesty, it would probably get a 9.