Mention the name "Bad Brains" to anyone today and you will likely get an eye-opening and overwhelmingly positive response. Considered by some to be the "holy grail" of punk rock, Bad Brains have a pure and quintessential attitude that most artists only aspire to achieve -- they are simply one of the most important and influential American bands still working today. Like all great bands, light bulbs go off and charisma enters a room just by the band merely standing in it. For the Bad Brains, they go one step further and supply the electricity to charisma. Sometimes reactionary, but always volatile, Bad Brains are one of the definitive punk groups who garner the same respect as the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Clash and The Ramones. Known for their over-the-top live performances, the band melded punk and reggae into an innovative style that has yet to be copied. Their impact can be felt in many musical circles and the Brains today have impacted virtually every punk band working the airwaves. Although the band released only a handful of records during their lifetime, they are now musical icons that remain humble.
Formed by guitarist Dr. Know, vocalist H.R., bassist Darryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson in the early 1980s, Bad Brains are influenced by reggae and pure punk rage. At the time, these two influences were surfacing in U.K. punk bands, but the Bad Brains took it a step further and were pioneers at crossing the genres and bringing a manic energy never seen before.
They managed to maintain an intensity and a sense of fury while switching gears from punk to reggae to punk. Darryl Jenifer and Dr. Know bring some of the most brutal and timeless musical jousts, and their interplay with Hudson drives the Brains' energy and intensity. Vocalist H.R. and his vocal virtuosity continue unchallenged today. His dub-influenced delivery is sometimes majestic, sometimes bizarre, sometimes brutal, but always compelling-- H.R. is clearly an innovative singer ahead of his time.
The band released I Against I in 1986, which was for Bad Brains what London Calling was for The Clash -- the band's more rounded effort that pushed them into legendary status. It had a focused vision, yet retained its diverse influences. Like the Brains' self-titled release, I Against I was another masterpiece in the original sense of that term — a “creative juggernaut.” The album is blistering, musically exhilarating, and contains some of the most complex and viscerally compelling songs the band ever produced. Their next album Quickness was an interesting detour into funk-metal for the band. Everything was slowed down and the sonic textures were thick.