I Against I
was for Bad Brains
what London Calling
was for the Clash
-- the band's first fully mature work, one which successfully brought together all of its diverse influences while at the same time showcasing a singular vision. Also like London Calling
, it was to be the band's masterpiece, in the original sense of that term -- a creative pinnacle which they would not reach again. The album opens with the title track, a blistering and musically exhilarating deploration of violence, and then moves directly into "House of Suffering," easily the most complex and yet viscerally compelling song the band ever produced. Singer H.R.
digs deep into his bag of voices and pulls them all out, one by one: the frightening nasal falsetto that was his signature in the band's hardcore days, an almost bel canto baritone, and a declamatory speed-rap chatter that spews lyrics with the mechanical precision of a machine gun. He positively croons on the surprisingly melodic "Secret 77" and "Let Me Help." But his voice isn't even the best thing happening here. It's the incredibly tight, funky, and tonally rich interplay between guitarist Dr. Know
, bassist Darryl Jenifer
, and drummer Earl Hudson
that gives this album its deeply satisfying texture. The stop/start rhythms of "Secret 77" and "Sacred Love," the gorgeous guitar hook on "She's Calling You," Dr. Know
's completely counterintuitive ability to meld the raw directness of hardcore punk with an almost supernatural virtuosity without sacrificing the power of either approach -- this is music-making of an order not usually seen in rock & roll.