Oh, the vexing proposal of Bad Brains in 2007. Considering the band's autumnal career—including but not limited to the awful major-label misstep Rise in 1993, vocalist H.R. and drummer Earl Hudson periodically departing to pursue reggae, and the debacle with Madonna's Maverick Records (losing the rights to the "Bad Brains" name and remaining active under the unfortunate "Soul Brains" moniker)—Build A Nation could have been a terrible mess.
It isn't. Those who have seen the film American Hardcore or read the book version that spawned it know what fans have always held: Bad Brains was one of the greatest hardcore acts of the first wave, boasting balls (it took those to be an all-black hardcore band in 1980), gorgeous melodies, a wall of power, and musical ability that few contemporaries could step to. Build A Nation is a conscious play to recapture the magic of 1979-1986 by way of the original lineup, with H.R.'s fully intact ethereal moan boosting Dr. Know's metalcore grooves and hardcore blitzes. And Hudson's drumming is hyper-produced to switch easily from rocking to somewhat ill-advised reggae, though on "Jah Love," it runs from straightforward to psyched-out dub for half the album. It's worth noting that "Send You No More Flowers" is an interpretation of a '79/'80 song, proving the band's reverence for its own seminal moments. Yes, it could have been worse. Much worse.