Bad Brains: Into the Future

The latest from the pioneering D.C. punk band delivers some fiery riffs but stands as a middling effort.

Bad Brains

Into the Future

Label: Megaforce
US Release Date: 2012-11-20
UK Release Date: 2012-11-19
Label website
Artist Website

Into the Future, the new album by pioneering D.C. punk band Bad Brains, is a fascinating disappointment. It's packed with riffs and rhythms as fierce as any in the band's catalog, but the vocals... oh man, those vocals!...sabotage the effort.

The "classic" Bad Brains lineup is behind the wheel here -- drummer Earl Hudson, guitarist Dr. Know, bassist Darryl Jenifer and singer H.R. These are the guys who knocked America's punk scene on its pogo-dancing ass in the early 1980s with their ferocious debut album, a blistering mix of punk, metal and reggae that remains an all-time great punk record.

Since then, Bad Brains has had its ups and downs. The band went through a series of lineup changes, spent time on a major label and lurched, sometimes awkwardly, from one musical style to another. In 2007, the original quartet came back together for Build a Nation, which was produced by the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. It was the first Bad Brains record in 12 years, and it was hailed by many fans as a solid (if not perfect) return to punk-rock form.

Five years later, Into the Future continues in that vein. The music is raw. The guitars snarl. The rhythm section pummels away with abandon. These guys might all be well into middle age, but they can still thrash as hard as any of today's young whippersnappers. And, if I may preach for a bit, how great is that? We're living in a time when many of our punk and post-punk heroes -- Bob Mould, Keith Morris, bands like Superchunk and Dinosaur Jr. and Mission of Burma -- are making music every bit at as biting and powerful as they stuff they did way back when. Can I get an A-men?

As thrilled as I am by its music, though, Into the Future ultimately stands as a middling Bad Brains effort. The primary reason? H.R.'s vocals. Yes, it's true that he's always been an idiosyncratic vocalist, with a sneering, nasal delivery that has traces of Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra in it. And it would be unfair to expect him to sound just like he did 30 years ago. But his vocals on this record are weird to the point of distraction. He warbles and whines. His singing sounds so aimless and detached you wonder if he's even aware of the music that's playing under him.

There are moments when it all works. The song "Yes I", which screams by in less than 90 seconds, benefits from H.R.'s suggestive yowling. So does "Suck Sess", which repeatedly alternates between a brutally fast punk beat and a slower, sinister metal groove. (A couple of reggae tracks, including a tribute to Yauch, work pretty well, too.) Sadly, though, these are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Look, Bad Brains's place in rock history is secure. The group will forever stand with the Sex Pistols and Black Flag and others in the pantheon of great punk-rock bands. Into the Future won't enhance that legacy, but it won't tarnish it, either. And, as the title of the album suggests, Bad Brains's story isn't over. I believe these guys have at least one more great album in them, and I'll pogo as high as anyone when it arrives.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.