Flex Your Head


At the time of its release, the Flex Your Head comp was a document of a scene that was just getting off the ground; 40 years on, it’s effectively a high school yearbook filled with snapshots of future punk heroes. So many key Dischord names are here: Ian MacKaye, appearing with future Minor Threat bandmate Jeff Nelson in the band that launched the label, the scrappy Teen Idles, whose lovably goofy “I Drink Milk” opens the album and who, like several other groups featured here, had already broken up by the time it came out; S.O.A. snarler Henry Garfield, soon to rechristen himself Henry Rollins and take on the world with Black Flag; the Untouchables’  Alex MacKaye (Ian’s younger brother) and Eddie Janney, whose memorable speed burst here “Nic Fit” would later be covered by Sonic Youth, and who went on together to the Faith and separately to Ignition, Rites of Spring and others; and Fugazi and Rites of Spring drummer Brendan Canty, turning up with the righteous, short-lived Deadline. But beyond its historical interest, it’s also just a collection of killer songs, from Government Issue’s taunting anti-Reagan burst “Hey, Ronnie” to Void’s flailing, off-the-rails “Authority” and Iron Cross gruff youth-movement rallying cry “New Breed.” And while many of the tracks fit the standard hardcore template — nasty, brutish and short — there’s a surprising amount of variety here, including the New Wave–ish guitarwork and arty arrangements of Artificial Peace and the skeletal funk and dub stylings of Red C, which point the way to Fugazi’s mature sound.

Hank Shteamer