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Music

Brian Baker's 5 greatest guitar tracks

@SamWKemp

Brian Baker is something of a hardcore punk institution. As a founding member of Minor Threat, he helped inject the US punk scene with a fresh spurt of creative ambition, earning a reputation as one of the best guitarists on the scene in the process.

Baker started playing the guitar when he was eight. At the same time as his friend, Michael Hampton – an equally influential guitarist from Washington D.C’s hardcore scene – was learning his scales, Baker was forming his first band, Silent Thunder; performing hair metal covers by Kiss and Aerosmith in his drummer’s basement.

After moving to Michigan, Baker formed Teen Idles with schoolfriends Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson. After the fledgling group disbanded, MacKaye and Nelson started a new band, Minor Threat. They became one of the most pioneering groups of the D.C hardcore scene despite being together for just three years.

They asked Baker to play bass, something he was initially reluctant to do, being a guitarist through and through. However, he soon came round to the idea, adopting a rhythmic, chord-based approach to the instrument.

Baker’s fretwork – whether on electric or bass guitar – has always been at the forefront of his work. From Minor Threat to his most recent group, Fake Names, these are Brian Baker’s five best guitar tracks of all time.

Brian Baker’s 5 greatest guitar tracks:

‘Infected’ – Bad Religion

This chunky trunk-swinger of a track was written by Brett Gurewitz and released in 1994. Taken from Bad Religion’s eighth studio album Stranger Than Fiction, it arrived alongside 21st ’21st Century (Digital Boy)’ and quickly received nationwide airplay, coming to be regarded as the track that allowed Bad Religion to break into the alt-rock mainstream.

Baker’s guitar absolutely makes this track, crunching along at a leisurely pace before exploding when Gref Graffin hits that immense chorus.

‘Circles’ – Dag Nasty

One of the best-produced hardcore punk tracks of the 1980s, Dag Nasty’s ‘Circles’ sees Brian Baker offer up melodic streams of chorus-drenched punk guitar, underpinned by a furious and euphoric rage it sings on the airwaves.

‘Circles’ is taken from Dag Nasty’s 1986 record Can I Say?, released via Dischord Records to a hungry underground fanbase. Today, ‘Circles’ still stands up as one of the most emo songs of all time, largely thanks to Baker’s ever-shifting guitar lines.

‘Straight Edge’ – Minor Threat

Brian Baker joined Minor Threat shortly after vocalist Ian MacKaye and drummer Jeff Nelson formed the group in Washington D.C in 1980. Although the group collapsed after just three years, in that time Baker and co. managed to make a massive impact on the punks scene, establishing a DIY approach that put the music back in the hands of its creators.

‘Straight Edge’ from Minor Threat’s self-titled 1981 EP is a mesmeric mess of fuzz, evoking the muff-laden churnings of The Stooges’ James Williamson. The track eventually became the basis for the anti-drink and drugs ‘Straight Edge’ movement.

‘Punk Rock Song’ – Bad Religion

Bad Religion’s 1996 track ‘Punk Rock Song’ is exactly what the same implies. It is a melodic slice of adrenaline-rich punk rock, which blends Baker’s chunky riffs and soaring lead guitar lines to magnificent effect.

While it failed to chart in the US, European audiences were more welcoming, leading to the single becoming Bad Religion’s best-selling single in Finland, Sweden, and Germany. Bad Religion actually released a German-language version of ‘Punk Rock Song’ which was included on European versions of their album The Gray Race.

‘It Will Take A Lifetime’ – Fake Names

Back in 2018 Brian Baker and Michael Hampton (Embrace, S.O.A, One Last Wish) met up for a casual jam. They quickly found themselves with a handful of “loud, angry and visceral” tracks that needed an outlet. After recruiting Johnny Temple on Bass and Refused frontman, Dennis Lyxzén for vocals, Fake Names was born.

This track from their 2021 self-titled EP is proof of just how technically virtuosic and technologically explorative Baker can be. Weaving reversed passages, jangly emo riffs, and rich chord progressions, ‘It Will Take A Lifetime’ is some of Baker’s best work to date, which considering it was released last year, is pretty impressive.