Sunday, February 17, 2008


This cd review was written for the website It was supposed to be used in late January, but I just found out they forgot about it and aren't using it, which means I'm posting it here. Rumor has it they're still paying me though.

Greg Ginn will forever be tied to his hardcore roots, no matter how far his post- Black Flag endeavors take him. The underground icon has recorded and released more albums with different groups or as a solo artist than he did during the more than decade-long run of his seminal punk band, but those who forgo anything the six-stinger touched post- Damaged are missing out on one of the few musicians from American hardcore's halcyon days who remains true to his original vision.

Ginn's relentless desire to press forward has sliced his audience into two categories: Black Flag diehards and fans of his experimental work. This penchant for challenging the status quo isn't new. Even Black Flag fans are torn between which version of the ever-revolving lineup is best. Some will go to their grave saying the 1981 addition of Henry Rollins ruined the Southern California act, while others prefer the more abstract path Ginn led his troupe down beginning with 1984's My War.

The discrepancy in the guitarist's resume has to do with the way the public views rock musicians. Rock fans associate artists with band names and lump players into a herd mentality, failing to see the individuals who comprise a band. Miles Davis performed in at least two groups heralded amongst the jazz community. Although the legendary trumpeter was the sole consistent in each outfit, jazz fans accept lineups shifts and focus on a player's career arch. Ginn's recorded output mirrors this mentality. Listeners might think differently about the trail the guitarist blazed had he issued Black Flag's 1977 Nervous Breakdown EP as a solo effort.

Other than three Black Flag reunion shows in 2003, Ginn has kept a low profile for more than a decade. But this changed with the release of three new records in November. Although each is listed under a different band name, Ginn's unique approach is the common thread that connects one disc to the next.

Ginn first used the name Gone during Black Flag's final days. The only attribute this new Gone disc shares with its predecessors is its unexpected sound. With a total of three songs each clocking in at more than 15 minutes, The Epic Trilogy serves as a greatest hits package for Ginn fans due to the continually changing moods. Like a rock opera, each tune runs the gamut from heavy breakdowns to electronic-inspired beats to blues wailing and Stooges-esque freak-outs. Epic comes with two discs: the first is instrumental while the second features Bad Brains vocalist HR adding his improv-sounding bag of tricks to the mix. Those who felt the singer's new style clashed with his band's latest album will find Ginn's music a better-suited fit to HR's slowed-down pace.

Ginn's second release is Under the Willow Tree by Mojack, a free jazz inspired group that has issued two records in the past. The band has always featured Ginn on bass and guitar and saxophonist Tony Atherton playing one of the best jazz/punk hybrids around. Unlike lengthy tunes pioneered by Ornette Coleman, Mojack's take on abstract music uses short songs with a solid backbone that allow Atherton the freedom to wail like a modern day Eric Dolphy while Ginn's bass playing holds down conventional structures.

The guitarist's final disc is the most interesting of the bunch, but not because of what it is, but what it is not. Unlike the aforementioned albums, Bent Edge is the debut from a new act called Greg Ginn and the Taylor Texas Corrugators. The 15-song record finds the 53-year-old slowing down his trademark spastic style for a unique blend of Texas swing, blues, bop and cool jazz. With drummer Steve DeLollis, Ginn plays guitar and uses a synthesizer to recreate an upright bass and piano for a groove-laden ride unlike anything the guitarist has issued before. Ginn's relaxed playing lets listeners know it's him behind the instrument while incorporating a smooth technique throughout each track. His ability to distance himself from prior efforts while maintaining his signature sound is perhaps Ginn's biggest accomplishment since flipping the switch on what people expected Black Flag to be.

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