BLACK FLAG — Family Man (review)

BLACK FLAG — Family Man album cover Album · 1984 · Non-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
In some respects it's no surprise that Family Man doesn't quite get the props of the preceding My War or the following Slip It In. Both of those other albums were recorded at a particular time (December 1983 for My War, June 1984 for Slip It In), which gives them a nicely unified sound and sense of purpose. Conversely, the material on Family Man is a mixture of off-cuts from those sessions and a few other bits and pieces recorded in between them.

In principle, that only represents a gap in time of about six months or so - but for a band whose sound was evolving as startlingly rapidly as Black Flag's was at this time, that may as well represent six years. The end result is a rather disjointed album, offering three different flavours of fun.

The first flavour is the one which gets talked about the most - the Henry Rollins spoken word tracks that dominate the first side. They may well not be what many fans are after, but they're interesting poetry, and it's worth noting that whilst six of the 7 songs on the first side don't have any instrumental backing and just have Rollins talking, in terms of running time those are quite brief and take less than 8 minutes. The remaining 9 minutes of side 1 is given over to Armageddon Man, in which Rollins recites his poetry over an instrumental backing reminiscent of the doom metal/hardcore punk proto-sludge mashup of My War (the oft-overlooked second flavour here).

The third flavour consists of the second side, devoted to instrumental mashups of hardcore punk and jazz. This isn't something entirely unprecedented in the subgenre - the Minutemen put a great deal of energy into working jazz influences into their music - but those who yearn for the simple, punch-to-the-gut directness of Damaged or The First Four Years may feel a little lost here.

However, those who like me are intrigued by Black Flag's more experimental work will find that Family Man is a tasty triptych of material in various different styles. You might find that one part of it or another isn't to your taste - but if it is all to your taste, you'll be favourably impressed, and even if it isn't there may well be something here worth your time even if you tend to skip the rest.
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