Henry Rollins names “the worst rhythm section in rock”

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins was never one to mince words when asked about a rock band. Rollins would smell out bands that he thought were inauthentic from his early days in Black Flag, tearing down preconceptions of rock and roll and creating the sounds of hardcore punk in the process. Rollins despised the classic rock rhythm section in particular, despite having a keen sense of when people were lying to him.

When it comes to the makeup of any good rock band, it all starts with the rhythm section. The drummer and bassist may not be the most recognizable faces to the band’s passive fans. They usually hold the rest of the band together. They do so by taking the groove to wildly different places at any given time.

Henry Rollins, on the other hand, understands the power of the rhythm section better than most. Rollins was known throughout his career with Black Flag to twist the rhythm section to suit the song. From the lightning-fast precision of their debut Damaged to eventually shifting towards Black Sabbath-like dread on My War.

Around the same time Rollins began in the late 1970s, another Irish band was emerging from the original punk revolution. After joining the post-punk movement, U2 quickly established themselves as a creative sonic force. They were writing songs that were both rock and roll spiritual exercises and great songs.

Although the band strayed further from traditional punk on albums like War and The Unforgettable Fire, they ended up incorporating new sonic textures into their sound, such as The Edge’s now-famous echoed guitar playing on The Joshua Tree. Despite their accomplishments, what Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton were doing in the background unimpressed Rollins.

Rollins thought Mullen and Clayton were among the least competent backbones a band could ask for in comparison to the forceful sounds of his favorite bands, saying, “They have the worst rhythm section in rock.” That is the slowest, corniest rhythm section to ever fill a stadium. When you look at those records, you’ll notice that they’re mediocre Brian Eno records with a bad band on them. They need a producer like Eno or Daniel Lanois to help this cabaret singer and his one-trick pony.”

While Rollins’ assessment of the band was harsh at the time, the role that Mullen and Clayton play perfectly serves the purpose of the song. The sparse instrumentation in the background allows the melodies to have a freefalling aspect. It would change when the band adopted various dance and electronic textures on albums like Achtung Baby and Zooropa. Rather than showing off any technical flash or putting added muscle into their parts.

Rollins preferred the sounds of hard-hitting drums from acts like Black Sabbath rather than what could be found on something like ‘With or Without You’. Even though U2 occasionally uses simple drum fills, it is the simplicity of their music that causes stadiums to erupt. The stadium erupted when ‘Where The Streets Have No Name‘ began to play.


1 comment
  1. Rollins was right. U2 really has no “rhythm section” to speak of. Any drummer and bassist playing in bar bands across the U.S. could easily fill in the them, and probably perform better. When you combine this with The Edge’s lack of prowess and Bono’s utterly annoying pretentiousness, you understand why U2 sucks.

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like