Bad Brains – Bad Brains / Rock For Light / Quickness (Reissues)


Having inspired everyone from the Beastie Boys to Soundgarden via Black Flag and the Cro-Mags, legendary punk band Bad Brains have an influence that far exceeds physical record sales. If there was any justice in the world they’d all be living in mansions and driving Ferraris, but like most pioneers they were usurped by those who followed and refined their sound for mass consumption. However, they’ve an unrivalled discography which is currently being reissued by the band’s own Bad Brains Records and we check out three of those below.

Bad Brains

Nowadays we’ve become desensitised to extreme music so it’s hard not to overemphasise just how ground-breaking Bad Brains was when it hit the streets as a cassette album in 1982. Sure, the Ramones had played punk fast but this Washington D.C. crew took things off the Richter Scale and left the opposition floundering in a cloud of dust. From the moment drummer Earl Hudson taps his sticks to introduce opening track ‘Sailin’ On’ you know you’re in for a white-knuckle ride and then the band go and deliver the ultimate one-two punch of ‘Don’t Need It’ and ‘Attitude’. This is about as visceral as punk gets, yet it’s also finely nuanced and it’s reggae which is the key to the band’s success. Not only is this album punctuated by three beautiful reggae tracks (‘Jah Calling’, ‘Leaving Babylon’, ‘I Luv I Jah’) but even when the band are popping their pistons there’s a strong groove underpinning thrashers such as ‘Fearless Vampire Killers’ that render them strangely danceable.

When the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch called this album “The best punk/hardcore album of all time” he wasn’t lying (and to prove his point the Beastie’s purloined the riff of ‘Big Take Over’ for their own ‘Pass The Mic’) and Bad Brains was responsible for spawning countless imitators. Yet none burned as brightly as this offering and if you want to know the source of most alternative music, it’s right here.

Rock For Light

Released just a year after their debut album, Rock For Light was a unique sounding album, and that was primarily due to producer Rick Ocasek (yes he from new wave band, The Cars). After 1991 there was effectively two versions of this album circulating, the superior original issue and a ‘91 remaster, the latter being a remix with a different running order, extra tracks and a speed increase that raises the pitch by one step (it is this version currently on Spotify). This reissue rights a few wrongs by returning to the original mix and it benefits from a remaster by Dave Gardner that gives the album the bottom end it deserves. Opening with the prophetic ‘Coptic Times’ (later covered by Krishnacore band, 108) this album fizzes and sparkles like its predecessor and contains a similar volatile mixture of reggae and punk. Rock For Light bursts at the seems with classic tracks and it set the standard for others to follow.

Several tracks from Bad Brains we re-recorded for this release, but it’s the original cuts which carry most clout, especially the indignant ‘We Will Not’, the sublime ‘I And I Survive’ and the hard-as-nails ‘At The Movies’. Rock For Light is a bright jewel in the band’s crown.


By the time Bad Brains dropped their fourth album, Quickness, in 1989 their sound had expanded to incorporate elements of funk, heavy metal and hip hop. Nevertheless, this release still had a tight focus, thanks in no small part to Cro-Mags drummer Mackie Jayson beating out the kind of deft rhythms that so illuminated the Mags’ Age Of Quarrel. While the Bad Brains had always shown a penchant for heaviness, they came out with all fists swinging on ‘Soul Craft’. It’s a track that could more than hold its own with what passed as metal in ’89 and it set a president for the rest of the record. Upon release Quickness courted controversy with the song ‘Don’t Blow Bubbles’, a track that was criticised as being homophobic. For a band who preached unity and righteousness, it was an ill-conceived move but history has been corrected and ‘Bubbles’ is replaced with an instrumental version.

Quickness was to be Bad Brains’ most successful album to date and it is easy to hear why. The brand of crossover thrash into which the record veered was in perfect sync with the times and while some lamented the frenetic punk of early releases, Bad Brains were never a one trick pony and Quickness found them sailing (on) towards a bright future.

For years the Bad Brains discography had been subject to some substandard reissues by third-parties that did the band no favours. Now they’re being re-released lovingly and respectfully by the band’s own label, their legacy is secured.

Track List:

Bad Brains

  1. Sailin’ On
  2. Don’t Need It
  3. Attitude
  4. The Regulator
  5. Banned In D.C.
  6. Jah Calling
  7. Supertouch/Shitfit
  8. Leaving Babylon
  9. Fearless Vampire Killers
  10. I
  11. Big Take Over
  12. Pay To Cum
  13. Right Brigade
  14. I Luv I Jah
  15. Intro

Rock For Light

  1. Coptic Times
  2. Attitude
  3. We Will Not
  4. Sailin’ On
  5. Rally Around Jah Throne
  6. Right Brigade
  7. F.V.K.
  8. Riot Squad
  9. The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth
  10. Joshua’s Song
  11. Banned In D.C.
  12. How Low Can A Punk Get
  13. Big Takeover
  14. I And I Survive
  15. Destroy Babylon
  16. Rock For Light
  17. At The Movies


  1. Soul Craft
  2. Voyage Into Infinity
  3. The Messengers
  4. With The Quickness
  5. Gene Machine/Don’t Bother Me
  6. Don’t Blow Bubbles
  7. Sheba
  8. Yout’ Juice
  9. No Conditions
  10. Silent Tears
  11. The Prophet’s Eye
  12. Endtro