Wednesday, September 19, 2007

[066] 13 Songs

Album: 13 Songs [7 Songs EP + Margin Walker EP]
Artist: Fugazi
Release Dates: 7 Songs - 11.88//Margin Walker - 06.89//13 Songs - 09.89
Label: Dischord
Producers: Ted Niceley & Fugazi//John Loder & Fugazi

“To surge and refine
To rage and define
Ourselves against your line
So sorry friend, but you must resign”
- from “Bulldog Front”

When I finished putting the early versions of this list together, I felt unhappy that I wasn’t able to include any “Punk” albums even though there was a large movement and at least a handful of pretty great albums in the 1990’s; the genre, or movement’s, most groundbreaking days were behind it. Of course, I had included Nirvana, who may or may not be a punk band to you, and this, a collection of Fugazi’s first two EPs which is essentially their debut album. Is that me showing my hand, that I would not initially consider them a punk band, I guess because of their musical progressiveness (and I mean that literally and not in an ELP/Genesis way)? But Fugazi are a punk band, in the greatest sense of that label. They represent the freedom from the constrictions of what came before them, the catharsis and satisfaction of putting every fiber of your being into your art, and the wonder of exploration; Ian MacKaye initially said he was shooting for “The Stooges playing reggae”. In a lot of ways, the way most kids toss the tag “Punk” around today, calling Fugazi a punk band would almost be an insult. For its members, Fugazi existed in order to continue to think and act in the spirit of Punk, but to break the music out of the assumed box, and in the process they helped to chart the path of underground rock and independent labels for the next 15 years. But always always always remember – as legendary as their anti-corporate and pro-audience business models were – it’s their mindblowing music that makes them legends.

Hardcore painted the members of Fugazi into corners in their former bands. I would not have wanted to be Ian MacKaye or Guy Picciotto in the late 80’s; As important as their music was, MacKaye and Minor Threat created so much of what people forced hardcore culture into, and Picciotto’s work in Rites of Spring was the first to be reduced to “Emo”. Joining with the untouchable rhythm section of drummer Brendan Canty (also of ROS) and bassist Joe Lally, 13 Songs shakes loose of people’s conceptions within the first 22 seconds; “Waiting Room” is the breaking of the shackles. Joe Lally’s bass rumbles its ironic/iconic fanfare, followed by the post-Ska beat and skittering guitar. 22 seconds, then it stops. Remember, the song is called “Waiting Room”. The first line is “I am a patient boy”. This arrangement is intentional. Fugazi will not play anyone’s games; they can make you wait. The song still sounds like nothing else, with MacKaye’s bellow bouncing off Picciotto’s whine, as they damn the temptations of laziness. Fugazi want to uplift their audience and stand as equal pro-active humans. Every song here is offering you something; Fugazi do not beat around the bush. These are examinations of self. They are warnings. They are anthems for a better existence.

Their music is organic in its evolution, and as it grows, it spirals outward like the improvisation of the great Jazz players of the past. The sound of Fugazi is singular, the players locked together. The music is based wholly on movement; if you listen to their albums and watch the videos I’ve left below for you, you’ll find that momentum builds constantly. Live, the band moves, the audience moves with them. On records, the music moves, the lyrics move with it; “Waiting Room” speaks of not sitting idly by. Their debt to reggae cannot be understated, and the influence in the band’s DNA contributes to its organic nature. In that vein, it’s somehow fitting that one of Fugazi’s sexiest, most lithe grooves forms the skeleton of an exposé on the objectification of women. Told from the point of view of a woman, MacKaye’s landmark “Suggestion” condemns the misogyny of the society we’re raised in, dissects the mental effects of rape, and screams to a halt with an accusation that we are all guilty. It’s the most pro-female song from an all-male band I know of. Almost as striking is Picciotto’s growling “Glue Man”, a harrowing tale of the downward spiral of drug addiction, built on the band’s ferocious attack, spear-headed by MacKaye’s rubber-band guitar work.

Furthermore, “Burning” and “Give Me The Cure” deal with unnamed afflictions that could be either addiction or possibly illness, significant during the advent of the AIDS epidemic. The majority of the rest of the album represents various stances against the devils of the 1980’s; corporate greed, homogenized suburbia, audacious political bullshit, stunted societal creativity. Picciotto’s fiery blast, “Margin Walker” proposes self-immolation as a protest before evoking the Kennedy assassination, while MacKaye’s rolling “Promises” hopes for a time when speech can get out of the way of unity. "And The Same",
"Provisional", and "Lockdown" ask similar questions, but are already evolving in new directions, the lyrics accelerating in on an abstract course. The formation of Fugazi, and the public realization of their unblinking musical adventurousness signaled an end to the bluster of hardcore, but also a summarizing of the greater Punk ideals - of do-it-yourself aesthetics, of renunciation of excess, of harmonic community that promotes the individual – leading to the beginning of a new musical age.

- Tracks 1-7 originally released as the 7 Songs EP
01. “Waiting Room”
02. “Bulldog Front”
03. “Bad Mouth”
04. “Burning”
05. “Give Me The Cure”
06. “Suggestion”
07. “Glue Man”
- Tracks 8-13 originally released as the Margin Walker EP
08. “Margin Walker”
09. “And The Same”
10. “Burning Too”
11. “Provisional”
12. “Lockdown”
13. “Promises

"Waiting Room" [live in Washington DC, 12.88]
bonus track on the Instrument DVD

"Suggestion" [live in Washington DC, 1991]
featuring Amy Pickering of Fire Party (also on Dischord) on vocals

- BONUS: "Glue Man" [live, mid 90's]
- BONUS: "Margin Walker" [live in St. Louis, 1988]
These 4 videos are from the same show as "Waiting Room".
Shot from the crowd, on VHS
- BONUS: "Bad Mouth" [live in Washington DC, 12.88]
- BONUS: "Provisional" [live in Washington DC, 12.88]
- BONUS: "Bulldog Front" [live in Washington DC, 12.88]
- BONUS: "Promises" [live in Washington DC, 12.88]
- BONUS: Interview with Ian & Guy, and some of "Suggestion" on Fugazi's first UK visit [12.88]

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