Weight, by Rollins Band
Reviewed by Matt Smith
I was pleased to get this one. I’ve always known OF Henry Rollins. I’ve long meant to spend some time going through the Black Flag and Rollins Band back catalogue but never quite got around to it. It looked like a lot of angry shouty music to go through and I wasn’t quite sure where to start, a problem which is now neatly solved. I quite like a bit of angry shouty music but usually in short doses and only when the mood takes.
I read some reviews of this album and other Rollins Band albums after my first naïve listen. Some reviews on punk websites appear to see it as a ‘sell out’ album. I assume that, as is common, he became less abrasive and perhaps more musical over time. I took the accusation of ‘sell out’ as a strong positive that they outgrew their core fan base and matured as artists..
My mum is a Henry Rollins fan. She’s never heard of Black Flag or Rollins Band, but she’s seen him doing speaking tours a few times and really liked him. He seems to like Newcastle, holds the audiences there in some affection apparently and always gets his hair cut at a barbers in the West End of the city, where you can still get it done for a fiver which mystifies him completely.
Crikey, on with the actual music then.. Eek 53 minutes, that’s far too long for a punk/hardcore/angry shouty record. 30 minutes is about optimal I reckon.. we’ll see
Disconnect starts strongly. I really like the bass and drums, the guitar sounds like it’s playing across modal scales, or just picking notes out of a scale without much release of returning to the root. They really support the song. The vocal is great too. I’m geeky enough to really admire the diction even in the angry songs. It’s an important detail here as you can follow the lyrical content properly.
Fool hits some nice blues rock riffs along with the less melodic sections which give a lot more groove than the first track. Clever stuff. And crikey why do I not know these people, both the bass player and guitarist are absolutely top notch. No ordinary angry shouty band these.
Icon, Civilized, Divine, more discord and interspersed blues rock licks with a surprising funk edge too. The quality is absolutely consistent, the vocals and lyrical content still fantastic and the pace is varied. Divine is pretty disturbing lyrically and great for it.
Liar I have mixed feelings about. I’m grateful for the slower pace to break up the assault of the last 4 tracks. And the band can really pull this off. I do worry that more spoken word-y stuff like this doesn’t always work well on repeated listens. But I’d complain if the pace didn’t relent at all during the album.
Step Back and Wrong man… Decent tracks, played and sung really well, but I think the dip in quality may have come now. Inevitable after 6 tracks at the level of the first half of the album, but these 2 tracks are on the forgettable side.
And then Volume 4 assails my ears. This is the absolute standout track on the album for me. It’s a brutal assault. The title brought Sabbath to mind and actually musically it has some echoes of Sabbath too. I’ll take a bet that he Rollins is a Sabbath fan
Tired.. Well I can understand the need for a drop in pace again, but this doesn’t quite work..
Alien Blueprint is another fantastic track. There’s an impressive number of really great tracks on this album..
Shine – they ended on a positive note! Maybe this is the reason for the sell out accusations. It feels like a great idea as a track to close the album, but the problem is that it’s not quite as good as some of the earlier tracks. I’m left a bit conflicted – it’s a good way to go out lyrically, but not musically, Alien Blueprint would have been a belting album closer.
My main final thought after listening to this a few times is that it sounds like the band had a singular vision for this album and pretty much nailed it. I’d have to be in the mood for it, but it’s as good of any of the genre I’ve ever heard. The guitar and bass are stunning – how come they aren’t better known? (Or maybe they are and the problem is mine..). The guitarist particularly is entirely comfortable playing modal sections, blues licks and atmospheric accompaniment to the quieter sections. I think the album could have lost a couple of tracks, my fear of it being a bit long was partly the case, but the album was a lot more variable than I anticipated both between songs and also within songs too. Credit to the band for this. Rollins is an awesome vocalist, a lot of gut and power, but the lyrics aren’t just screamed at you, the delivery has been given a lot of consideration and rehearsal. I’m giving the album 8/10 and am now curious to listen to the pre ‘sell out’ albums