What makes Damaged revolutionary isn’t just its speed or rage, but how the band wields it. They have their targets: consumerism (“Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie”), apathy (“TV Party”), authority (“Police Story,” “Spray Paint”). But where Bad Brains captured hardcore’s romance and Minor Threat its philosophical purity, Black Flag’s Damaged is its first existential statement, an album that uses the outward physicality of punk as a tool for inner exploration. It’s easy to squint at guitarist Greg Ginn’s love of the Grateful Dead—wasn’t punk supposed to be a reaction to the dippy intangibilities of the hippie movement?—but it also makes sense. For as much as Black Flag symbolizes hardcore’s societal rebellion, Damaged is ultimately an album about journeying to the limits of your head. “Damaged,” Henry Rollins screams on the album-closing “Damaged I.” “My damage/No one comes in/Stay out.” Not the state’s, not his parents’, not his friends—his. Musically, they took what they loved from Television and the Ramones and made it faster, harder, and bleaker (“Depression”). But they also tapped into spoken-word poetry (“Damaged I”), sludge metal (“Life of Pain”), and noisy jams that took the discord of punk into almost avant-garde territory—sounds that they’d explore further over the course of their short, hugely impacting career. Damaged helped invent hardcore, but its real legacy is how it shaped nearly every form of extreme guitar-based music that came after.

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