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I've been on a bit of a Bad Brains kick lately, so I figured I'd post about their absolutely crucial first single, the dirty-sounding but completely non-sexual rallying cry that essentially kickstarted the entire hardcore scene. Quite a bit louder than the version appearing on the band's self-titled debut cassette on ROIR, the disk's eponymous A-side is a furious ninety-three second "piece of wisdom" from the band's collective "hearts," an apocalyptic call-to-arms for a generation to awaken from their collective acquiescence and apathy and "choose to fight / To stick up for [their] bloody right . . . to sing . . . to dance" in a world where one must pay for everything. Musically, "Pay to Cum!" is one of the most influential singles ever released, quite literally providing the blueprint for everything hardcore punk could be: supersonic guitars, lyrics spit out so fast that they practically overlap with one another, and genuine vitriol.

"Stay Close to Me," a non-album reggae track whose mellow melody is occasionally punctured by slashing guitars, presents a young man's impassioned plea to a woman to stay with him rather than return to a man the former believes is inferior to himself.

This single is truly one of the undisputed classic punk releases and is undeniably a fantastic introduction to the Janus-faced nature of Bad Brains. One the one hand, you've got one of the most technically adept punk bands (despite the lo-fi qualities of the disk, little can disguise the sheer talent carried over from the group's origins as the jazz-fusion outfit Mind Power) playing one of the most blisteringly supersonic tracks ever recorded and, on the other, you've got the same group of guys playing some great reggae.

Of course, this makes sense. H. R., the band's frontman, was just as likely to be arrested for busting a fan's head as he was for selling pot to an undercover cop.

While the entire group is tight on the recording, the Hudson brothers (singer H. R. and drummer Earl) give especially stellar virtuoso performances. With H. R.'s unusually wide (and delightfully nasal) vocal range and Earl's jazz-on-amphetamines drumming, "Pay to Cum!" was light years ahead of its time: hardcore played at the concentrated speed most subsequent bands failed to equal with the musical complexity associated with post-hardcore acts before hardcore was even a bona-fide genre.

Sobriquet Grade: 95 (A).

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This page contains a single entry by Sobriquet Magazine published on January 1, 2009 11:39 AM.

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