Bad Brains made their name as the late-70′s afro-punks who, alongside Black Flag, spearheaded hardcore punk as we know it. Plus, they were the only ones to fuse it with reggae, of all genres. While that diverse a range of influences can be ground-breaking, it can also make for a musical split personality disorder – one which has been a part of Bad Brains’ entire career and is in full force on their ninth studio effort Into the Future. Singer Paul “H.R.” (Human Rights) Hudson’s often aimless lyrics turn eclecticism into confusion, which further stifles their ability to match their evolved students in today’s hardcore and reggae. Here’s five of the holes spread across Into the Future‘s lyrical dartboard of randomness:

Popcorn

H.R. reminds us that no band needs to take itself too seriously, with an intro based around the theme “It’s on like popcorn!” However, this proves to be the lyrical high-point, as “Popcorn” derails into a general list of all the various places beautiful Rastas could theoretically be from. To top it off, the following meaningless chorus (below) is sung in a voice that seems increasingly aware of its pointlessness as it repeats: [LISTEN]

Jah people, singin’ all around
Jah people, we make the world go round (round and round…)

 

Youth of Today

“Human Rights” starts this lyrical half-gem (and theme for the song) with a page from the Captain Obvious handbook, and then finishes it up with a “PMA” (Positive Mental Attitude) spin. As the optimistic track morphs from hardcore to reggae-rock – the latter half replacing where you’d expect a typical thrash breakdown – you can hear H.R.’s voice become more focused, exposing his heavy predilection towards their reggae half, and probable annoyance with the veritable punk: [LISTEN]

The youth of today is the man of tomorrow
They don’t live in tears,
Beg, steal, or borrow

Jah Love

“Jah Love” lays a “fuck-superficiality” mantra over smooth dub-reggae, telling us that love for Jah and each other are what matter, not personal style or whether you dread your locks. However, in an attempt to spell out their past cultural significance (with old interview clips singing their praises), they directly contradict this sentiment. In particular, some samples of interviewers mention the strangeness of a black hardcore band, and the joking retort: “We figured if they didn’t mind us being black, we didn’t mind them being white.” Wittiness aside, focusing on and re-broadcasting these separations belies the point: [LISTEN]

It’s not the clothes that you wear
It’s not the style of your hair
It’s not the way that you walk
It’s not the way that you talk
It’s Jah Love

Earnest Love

It’s probably best to contrast “Earnest Love” with the ultimately silly, similarly-titled track “RubADub Love,” which features the lyric “Yoooooo, Here we go/The soyiggyupyup Rubadublove rumor.” “Earnest Love” decides to head South of “RubADub” with socially-conscious axioms dug up from Tupac‘s grave, mixed with Rasta prophecies. As if we needed any more ice cream in this jumbalaya, this is all laid over ill-fitting Melvins-style sludge, which changes to 80′s speed-metal for the outro. It’s impossible to decide if it’s eccentric or obnoxious, but either way: the cliché lyrics fail the sonic smoothie: [LISTEN]

We can make a change
We can make a change, right now

Fun

A song about allegedly (almost definitely) smoking weed with a pictured 18-year-old Brooke Shields in 1983 would have been a lot more ‘fun’ than the list of random things H.R. wants to tell us are also fun. Why H.R. finds this track fun himself is puzzling. While musically it reminds of their Faith No More-inspiring, rap/rock-pioneering album I Against I, he obviously made no effort to compete with his older lyrics.: [LISTEN]

Let’s have fun
Let’s have fun
We all need fun
Music is fun
School is fun
Love is fun