Joint Fuel

There's no doubt that during his 1980s stint with seminal L.A. hardcore punkers Black Flag, Henry Rollins helped detonate some of the explosive rock 'n 'roll moments in a decade that ultimately proved to be rather bereft of same. Our man Hank really made his mark, however, when his raging existential angst, fueled by what might be called the "Rollins speedball" (copious amounts of caffeine and endorphins, the latter the result of his much publicized weight-training regime), found a perfect niche within the ever-teetering grunge wall of the early '90s.

The Rollins Band's slamming major-label debut, The End of Silence (1992), brought the singer and his now famously rippled, tattooed physique to mainstream audiences for the first time — even though a watered-down version of the funkified heavy metal that Rollins and company mined on that album and two subsequent releases went on to become a successful commercial formula for numerous mediocre bands with bare-chested, tattooed singers who no doubt still surface in Rollins' worst nightmares.

By 1997's Come in and Burn, Rollins seemed in real danger of becoming a mere self-parody, and he now admits that during this period he lost interest in music and pondered retiring from the business altogether. The re-emergence of a Y2K-ready Rollins seemed to call for extreme measures, and in true Hemingway style, Rollins hasn't shrunk from taking them. Out are all the members of the original Rollins band — and with them, all the funk-metal stylings they made famous. Gone as well (for the most part, anyway) are the usual whip-it-good lyrics of self-loathing. One year shy of the big 4-0, Rollins has opted to focus outward, lacerating the mindless devotees of our current over-the-top materialistic culture with a surprisingly winning combination of rage and humor.

Get Some Go Again, then, lives up to its title. The Rollins Band II (formerly a metal outfit called Mother Superior) keeps things lean, mean and tight, while the rejuvenated singer returns to the classic hard-rocking style of heroes such as Motörhead, Black Sabbath, the MC5 and even Thin Lizzy, whose "Are You Ready" (RealAudio excerpt) is agreeably detonated here with some help from old Lizzy guitar slinger Scott Gorham. Both the title track and "Hotter and Hotter" are breathless, kick-out-the-jams workouts, while "Illumination" (RealAudio excerpt) opens atmospherically with a neo–Jim Morrison rap about the road and is followed by some sledgehammer metal riffing. "Thinking Cap," meanwhile, finds Hank humorously assessing a jet set type thus: "Let's see, multiple nose jobs ... breast augmentation, naturally ... dyed hair ... bleached teeth ... you can dress up a pig, but it's still a pig, isn't it?" This, uh, train of thought is taken to hilarious extreme on the album's closer, a contrary 14-minute funk workout "L.A. Money Train" (RealAudio excerpt), wherein our lovable middle-aged curmudgeon, aided and abetted by MC5 alumnus Wayne Kramer on guitar, manages to skewer Beck by implication, the Offspring by name, rock critics, session men and numerous other representatives of a "culture that's evaporating."

Though he no doubt would scoff at such a notion, this newfound role of elder rock statesman suits Henry Rollins quite well. Long may he rant.