30When thinking back to bands that shaped hardcore punk as we know it today, the key names that often come up are Minor Threat, Black Flag, Youth of Today, Agnostic Front, and so on. While far from overlooked, a band you don’t always hear mentioned in every breath during that conversation is Detroit legends, Negative Approach.
The band formed in 1981, allegedly after witnessing a Black Flag and Necros show. Vocalist John Brannon has been the main constant throughout the lifespan of Negative Approach, but it is the line-up of Brannon, Rob McCulloch (guitar), Graham McCulloch (bass), and Op Moore (drums) is considered the classic line up. They filled the stage with their larger than life presence, and recorded the bands self-titled 1982 debut; one of the most important hardcore punk records of all time.
Negative Approach channelled the visceral, unhinged power of Black Flag, with Brannon taking a few ques from vocalist Henry Rollins. Yet the vehement delivery of Brannon’s voice did, in some ways, put him a cut above the rest. It translated well onto record, too. As the band’s name suggests, Negative Approach pull no punches when it comes to focusing on the darker side of life. Can’t Tell No One, Ready to Fight, and what would become their defining tracks, Nothing. Brannon’s impassioned vocals are met by buzzsaw guitars and frantic basslines, over the clatter of sharp snare cracks. It was more hardcore than punk, more punk than hardcore, and riddled with anger and frustration.
Recorded at Touch and Go studios in Maumee, Ohio, the 10 tracks cruise by in under 10 minutes. It was released on the highly credibly Touch and Go label, and had an initial run of just 1000 copies. The sleeve, in keeping with the uncompromising nature of the band, was a still of Linda Blair, playing the part of possessed child Regan MacNeil in controversial – at the time – horror movie, The Exorcist. A very small number were printed with colour sleeves, while the remained were in black and white, and an unspecified amount of copies contained bizarre hand-written messages from the band.
Nearly 36 years after its release, Negative Approach are still proving to be a dominant force in hardcore. They buck every trend and conform to nobody’s standards but their own.