All the recent Black Flag activity reminds me of the schisms of medieval Christianity or the English war of roses period. There’s a lot of he-said she-said, legal threats, splits/reformations; but in the end, it’s just a bunch of old men arguing over who is the ‘real’ heir to the throne.
Greg Ginn is an easy enemy. He ripped off tons of SST bands, he sued the other members, he benches way less than Henry Rollins. That being said, he is the only member who was a constant in the band, everyone else came and went. Additionally, his guitar sound and riff style were probably the most important thing Black Flag contributed to punk. He’s just an easy target. The real reason for all the hostility is that he owns the Black Flag name and logo; so he’s the one getting rich off of Urban Outfitters.
With all this noise about who is the real Black Flag, no one seems to be asking the important questions: is this band even relevant today? is a black flag reunion consistent with the values of their origin? Is the mythologization of this band good for music today?
Once in high school, I saw one of the popular girls wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. I was surprised, she liked the same things as me, maybe we could be friends, everything I thought was wrong. I asked her about it, but it was clear she had no idea who Black Flag were. Ten seconds later, her friends came down the hall all wearing cool vintage punk rock tees; nostalgia is always in fashion. So, I just went back to eating sandwiches behind the dumpsters, and I guess she went back to the mall.
So, riddle-me-this? What’s the difference between her and the rootless hipsters who now go to FLAG/Black Flag/OFF! shows? … I have no idea, probably nothing. All I do know is that the real ‘heir’ to Black Flag is playing a show in a basement where they will never be.
Stay hungry, keep your ears to the streets.