My War

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This article is about the Black Flag album. For the Bear Quartet album, see My War (The Bear Quartet album). For the book, see My War: Killing Time in Iraq.
My War
Studio album by Black Flag
Released March 1984
Recorded December 1983
Genre Hardcore punk, heavy metal
Length 40:24
Label SST
Producer Greg Ginn, Spot, Bill Stevenson
Black Flag chronology
The First Four Years
(1983)
My War
(1984)
Family Man
(1984)

My War is the second full length album by the American hardcore punk band Black Flag. It was released in 1984 on SST Records.

Black Flag's founder and primary songwriter Greg Ginn played bass guitar in addition to his usual guitar; "Dale Nixon" (credited for playing bass on the album) is a pseudonym.

My War was released after a long period where the band could not release any albums due to a legal dispute with Unicorn Records.

The first six songs on the a-side of My War are similar to the material on 1981's Damaged, but the three songs on the b-side proved that Black Flag was moving away from the band's early, fast-paced material. All songs on side B are played at about half the pace of the band's earlier material, each clocking in at over six minutes, and display a doomy, ominous sound indebted to Black Sabbath. My War is generally cited as being a major influence on many bands in the sludge metal and grunge genres. Two of the songs featured on the album are solely written by Chuck Dukowski ("My War" and "I Love You") though he was no longer a member of the band by this point and does not perform on the album.

Kurt Cobain listed it in his top fifty albums of all time.[1][2]

The song "My War" was featured in the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto V.[3]

Background[edit]

In 1978 Black Flag guitarist and cofounder Greg Ginn converted his ham radio business to SST Records to releas the band's first EP Jealous Again. Soon SST was releasing recordings by other bands as well, beginning with Minutemen' Paranoid Time in 1980.[4] Black Flag recorded its first album Damaged in 1981 at Unicorn Studios and arraged a deal with the studio's record label Unicorn Records, which had distribution with MCA Records. MCA label president Al Bergamo halted the release after hearing the record, calling it "anti-parent".[5] Legal issues with Unicorn prevented the band from releasing recordings under its own name until the label went bankrupt in 1983; the double Everything Went Black—a compilation of earlier, unreleased material—appeared from SST in 1982 without the band's name on it.[6]

Following the release of Damaged Blag Flag absorbed a wider range of influences, such as the doom metal of Saint Vitus (who released via SST) and the more experimental hardcore of Flipper, Void, and Fang.[7] Dukowski felt that Rollins' vocal approach was better suited than that of the band's earlier three singers to the new material he was writing such as "I Love You" and "My War".[8]

The band recorded a set of ten demo tracks at Total Access studios in 1982 for a planned follow-up to Damaged, with Chuck Biscuits replacing Damaged drummer Robo.[9] The rest of the lineup consisted of Ginn and former vocalist Dez Cadena on guitars, Henry Rollins on vocals, band cofounder Chuck Dukowski on bass.[citation needed] The band explored new sounds on these tracks, which tended to feature a riff-heavy heavy-metal edge and nosiy, energic free guitar soloing from Ginn. The album never materialized, and the heavily-bootlegged demos have never been officially released; re-recordings of several of the tracks from the aborted session were to feature on My War and other later albums. The line-up did not last long—frustrated with the band's legal troubles, Biscuits left[9] in December 1982, replaced by Bill Stevenson,[10] and in 1983 Cadena left to form DC3.[9] Ginn had been frustrated with Dukowski's sense of rhythm, and in Germany during a European tour in 1983 gave Dukowski an ultimatum to quit, or he would leave himself. Dukowski left the band, but stayed on as to co-run SST.[11]

With Unicorn's demise in 1983 Black Flag was able to release the material they had been writing since 1981.[12] $200,000 in debt, Ginn, Rollins, and Stevenson headed to the studio to record My War, where Ginn handled bass duties under the pseudonym Dale Dixon.[13]

Music[edit]

The music on My War is dark, without the humor or fist-pumping anthems that lightened up Damaged—no longer the snotty-nosed punk approach of the Keith Morris era, the band now focused on gloom, depression, defeatism, and aggression.[14] The LP is divided stylistically in halves—or sides on the original LP. The first features five tracks of high-powered arcore punk and closes with a noisy freak-out, "The Swinging Man".[7] The opening title track was penned by Dukowski. Ginn's "Can't Decide" follows, a gloomy ode to frustration: "I conceal my feelings / So I don't have to explain / What I can't explain anyway". "Beat My Head Against the Wall" rails at conformity and the band's experience with a major label: "Swimming in the mainsteam / Is such a lame, lame dream".[15] Dukowski's "I Love You" parodies pop ballads with lyrics of violence and dysfunction in a relationship gone wrong. Ginn and Rollins share credit on the metallic "Forever Man" and the noisefest of "Swinging Man".[16]

The second half is made up of three tracks, each clocking at over six minutes. Each is in a plodding black Sabbath-esque sludge metal style.[7]

Artwork[edit]

The album's artwork was illustrated by Raymond Pettibon as with all Black Flag's artwork. Contrary to the belief of depicting Adolf Hitler being punched in the face with a boxing glove, it actually depicts a hand puppet clutching a kitchen knife. The small tie is meant to imply this.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[17]
Robert Christgau B− [18]
Stylus Very Positive [19]
Punknews 5 stars[20]

My War polarized Black Flag fans, alienating those who wanted the band to stay true to its simple hardcore roots.[7] My War was but the first release by the band in 1984, a year that also saw Family Man, Slip It In, and Live '84 appear from SST.[12]

It has been criticized for the muffled sound of its production; Stevie Chick criticizes the lack of character in Ginn's bass-playing on "My War" when compared to the 1982 demo of the same song with Dukowski on bass.[15]

The album had a large influence on the hardcore-meets-Sabbath sounds of the Melvins, Mudhoney, and Nirvana.[7]

Track listing[edit]

Side A

  1. "My War" (Dukowski) – 3:46
  2. "Can't Decide" (Ginn) – 5:22
  3. "Beat My Head Against the Wall" (Ginn) – 2:34
  4. "I Love You" (Dukowski) – 3:27
  5. "Forever Time" (Ginn/Rollins) – 2:30
  6. "The Swinging Man" (Ginn/Rollins) – 3:04

Side B

  1. "Nothing Left Inside" (Ginn/Rollins) – 6:44
  2. "Three Nights" (Ginn/Rollins) – 6:03
  3. "Scream" (Ginn) – 6:52

Personnel[edit]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1984) Peak
position
UK Indie Chart[21] 5

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Top 50 by Nirvana [MIXTAPE]". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Cross, Gaar, Gendron, Martens, Yarm (2013). Nirvana: The Complete Illustrated History. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7603-4521-4. 
  3. ^ ref
  4. ^ Waksman & 2009 222–223.
  5. ^ Chick 2011, pp. 244–246.
  6. ^ Chick 2011, pp. 263–264.
  7. ^ a b c d e Earles 2014, p. 41.
  8. ^ Chick 2011, p. 267.
  9. ^ a b c Chick 2011, pp. 266–267.
  10. ^ Parker 2000, p. 106.
  11. ^ Chick 2011, p. 284.
  12. ^ a b Chick 2011, p. 335.
  13. ^ Parker 2000, p. 124.
  14. ^ Chick 2011, pp. 288–289.
  15. ^ a b Chick 2011, p. 288.
  16. ^ Chick 2011, p. 289.
  17. ^ John Dougan. "My War - Black Flag : AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  18. ^ Robert Christgau: Black Flag reviews
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1989. Cherry Red Books. Retrieved September 5, 2014. 

Works cited[edit]