As a way to change this column up a bit, I felt it would be wise for me to visit the non-metal influences on my writing – and of those, Fugazi are a major one.
Fugazi were a band that formed from the ashes of Ian Mackaye‘s previous band Embrace and Guy Piciotto‘s Rites Of Spring. Embrace were a transitional band from Minor Threat‘s brash and in your face hardcore punk and Rites Of Spring were considered the beginnings of emo. With all of these bands being royalty to the D.C. hardcore scene it was even more special when the band formed in 1987. After a double dose of EPs the band recorded their first LP Repeater in 1990 and it became a landmark album for the post-hardcore genre. Let’s find out why.
“Turnover” begins with some dissonant noise in the background, as the bass and drums give way to bombastic guitars and Guy Piciotto’s vocals, which teem with emotion. A lot of what made this album so influential was the varying tempo changes as well as the rhythm and guitar section interplay; the famous stop-and-go style of post-hardcore in full effect. The album’s title track – an best known song – features Mackaye’s vocals, which are more on the angry side as a counterpoint to Piciotto’s, which invoke more of an emotional viewpoint. Lyrically the song is about the rash of gun violence that struck our nation’s capital at the time, and the foolishness that surrounded it. The song’s title takes on further meaning throughout the album with repeating themes from start to finish.
“Merchandise” starts off with some riffs that feel like an homage to The Clash – an almost a reggae type of sound. The music, along with Mackaye’s iconic voice, feels like it could very well have been a song from one of his past bands, but the inclusion of Piciotto allows the band takes on a life of its own. Pointing the proverbial finger back at the listener; the lyric “You are not what you own” being repeated to make sure the band and their DIY attitude are well established. The mid tempo riffing peppered with Piciotto’s vocals on “Blueprint” make for a unique listen and it becomes almost anthemic by the track’s end: “Never mind what’s been selling // It’s what you’re buying and receiving undefiled.” – pointing right at the repetitious patterns employed by advertisers and educating consumers to be smarter rather than be so purely predictable.
Opening with the sensational lyric “Here comes another problem // All wrapped up in solution,” “Sieve Fisted Find” is a must listen track for all of the wonderful rhythm section, and specifically the spectacular bass; most punk bands wish their bass playing was quite this good. ”Greed” has the feeling of Embrace’s “Money” about the mass consumption of what people actually need – as opposed to what you are told you want – and this is told through the twin vocal delivery as well as the stop and go guitars making that instrumental punch that much stronger.
“Two Beats Off” chugs along to the beat of the guitar and follows Piciotto as he croons about threats and how when they ultimately disappear they are able to resurface in a new form. Next up is “Styrofoam“, which begins with a very punk tempo and then showcases the new sound the band had developed as the guitar sections mix together to create a unified sound – one that has been dissected more times than I can imagine by fans of the band. “Reprovisional” touches on topics such as a societal selective memory of subjects, I can imagine that Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson would be two people in the vocal cross hairs of the band .
Ending the album is the track “Shut The Door”, which features some of the best vocals by Mackaye which features a more subtle and subdued bass line to back him up as the bombast from the guitars comes in ebbs and flows. The vocals punctuate the air with high emotion, and it should come as no surprise as to why truly emo bands and not the ones of today look back to albums like this as well as Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, and Sunny Day Real Estate’s Diary as landmark albums for emotive lyrics and vocal delivery.
The band continued their career for a short time longer which spanned an additional 5 albums as well as a documentary film (Instrument). Their legacy gave way to more than enough bands who knew plenty about wearing your emotions on your sleeves and singing your heart out. The band also famously did not want to get wealthy from their music and used to charge things like $3 for a concert and clearly did it because they truly loved what they did and really believed in themselves; a concept lost on most of today’s music. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. For now here is a plethora of great bands related in more than one way. See you all next week!