Black Flag is one of the oldest punk rock bands still in existence. For those unfamiliar, the genre traces its roots to New York City in the mid-1970s. From there, punk rock spread outwards in a riotous wave.
Black Flag is one of the punk rock bands that emerged in California in the late 1970s. Since then, it has undergone numerous changes. Despite this, Black Flag is still standing, centered around Greg Ginn as the one constant member.
Here is our opinion of the ten best Black Flag songs ever released:
10. “Drinking and Driving”
“Drinking and Driving” is a straightforward condemnation of the titular practice. It describes the potential consequences in detail. Moreover, it singles out common excuses for driving under the influence for special mockery. This song has a sense of brutality, which is as it should be.
9. “Six Pack”
Speaking of which, “Six Pack” expresses similar sentiments to “Drinking and Driving.” This song isn’t as blatant about the damage those who overindulge will do to themselves and their loved ones. However, the lyrics make it clear that the narrator’s drinking is destroying his relationship while eating up his earnings.
The situation hasn’t deteriorated to the point of collapse, but it seems to be headed in this direction. Indeed, the narrator seems like he is in the process of losing his girlfriend, seeing as how he has just answered that he likes his beer more than he likes her.
8. “Nervous Breakdown”
“Nervous Breakdown” is another longstanding favorite from Black Flag’s repertoire. Specifically, it is the titular track of the band’s debut EP, which is notable because the latter was also their debut release. Regardless, “Nervous Breakdown” is a raw-sounding anthem of misery from the first few years of punk rock. As such, it is no exaggeration to call it a classic.
7. “Rise Above”
Nowadays, it is hard to imagine people getting too worked up about punk rock. The genre entered the mainstream decades ago. Moreover, it has mixed with a wide range of other genres, meaning it has become familiar to a broader swathe of society than its pioneers ever envisioned.
This state of affairs was far from being the case when punk rock was still in its infancy. “Rise Above” was a song of defiance and determination aimed at those who greeted the band with hostility, which still resonates with those who are still strained and struggling.
6. “Jealous Again”
“Jealous Again” is also the titular track of an EP. Granted, the latter was supposed to be Black Flag’s debut studio album. Unfortunately, the original vocalist Keith Morris experienced a breakdown of some kind before quitting the band midway through its making, which complicated things for obvious reasons.
Still, Black Flag persevered, as shown by how “Jealous Again” came out sung by the band’s second vocalist Ron Reyes. This is a very relatable song. Songs often deal with topics that have minimal relevance to the listeners. In contrast, the emotion of jealousy is something that the overwhelming majority of people have experienced at one point or another.
5. “My War”
“My War” came out on the studio album of the same name. Black Flag’s lineup changes also affected this song. For proof, look no further than the fact that there is more than one version. Something that has fueled much debate among fans over which is the best. Whatever people’s opinion, “My War” is a huge outpouring of negative emotion, which provides the song with considerable impact.
“Revenge” is more or less what it sounds like. The narrator has become fed up. As a result, they are now set on revenge, so much so they won’t grieve even if their target dies. It isn’t 100 percent clear who the narrator has in mind. However, the lyrics suggest he might not be in the mindset to care. In any case, fury has driven a great many punk rock songs. Even now, “Revenge” remains a simple but memorable example of such work.
Black Flag is famous for being one of the early adopters of a straight-edge lifestyle. Primarily, that means refraining from drugs and alcohol. However, some straight-edge adherents go even further by following other self-imposed restrictions.
Examples range from avoiding promiscuity to eating a vegan or vegetarian diet. The exact origins of the lifestyle are complicated. Still, a negative reaction to the excesses around them is a well-known factor. “Wasted” sees Black Flag taking verbal shots at the membership of other subcultures, which were more willing to use drugs and alcohol than they were.
2. “In My Head”
Internal conflict tends to make for poor musical output. Amusingly, Black Flag defied that trend by releasing the much-praised In My Head while it was actively disintegrating. That said, this makes sense. This song is an overwhelming expression of anger, misery, and other negative emotions. It isn’t hard to see how internal conflict might fuel such music.
“Depression” is another song focused on similar themes. The lyrics put more emphasis on the negative thoughts and feelings that are dragging the narrator down. Even so, the delivery is as fast and aggressive as always.
This is another song that has been recorded multiple times by multiple vocalists. If anything, the sheer number of options has made for an even more contentious debate over which is the best. As such, interested individuals would be well-advised to seek out all of them. All the vocalists might have been working on the same basis, but their results are quite distinctive.
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