I am a somewhat moody person. [Gasp --
you're kidding! -- sarcastic Brendan] There are times
when all i want to listen to is spaced out ambient droning,
then there are times when i want energetic swirling guitars,
and then there are times when i want to listen to screamed vocals
of sheer unrestrained angst over thundering rhythms and screeching
guitars. Sunny days that i have to work through inspire mood
3, and i usually wind up listening to some Fugazi during those
I know that's dorky. I mean, part of the reason sunny days
trapped in the office inspire me to drag out Fugazi are their
die-hard DIY roots, their strong anti-catpitalist stance, their
straight-edge-ness, and their veganism. Fugazi just seem so
... subversive. I admit that i get a sort of rush out of listening
to Fugazi on headphones while sitting in some corporate tower
slaving away at a computer screen. It's like i am saying "you
can economically enslave me, but you can never mentally or emotionally
enslave me" to my Corporate Masters. Dorky i know, but there
you have it: i listen to Fugazi to prove that i am free.
There's more to it than that of course. Fugazi have released
a lot of challenging music over the years. However, you have
to be careful. After releasing a few albums of great punk rock,
Fugazi became ... experimental. Not like they are doing Sun
Ra covers or anything, but they are pushing the limits of their
music. I really respect that, and i'm not complaining about
it. It's just that, well, every other album has been something
of a disappointment. As if they make a significant change in
what they are doing, record it, tour, then write another album
that has the kinks worked out of the sound. With some Fugazi
albums i listen to them a lot right when they come out, and
then file them away to be overlooked for other Fugazi albums.
I guess what i am saying is this, Fugazi albums are like Star
Trek films: the odd numbered ones are weaker.
For example, Repeater and 13 Songs
were both great albums (which screws my theory because number
1 was good, but i am going to overlook this for now), but then
you have Steady Diet of Nothing, which i do not
listen to, ever. Then came In On The Killtaker,
which is one of my favorite albums of all time, which was followed
by Red Medicine. I listened to Red Medicine
non-stop for about 3 months and then filed it away, never to
seek it out again. Red Medicine was followed by
End Hits, which took the pseudo jazz of Red
Medicine and perfected it. Another classic, IMHO.
The Argument is the next album, so i wasn't expecting
much. And yet, this is good. Really good. Damned catchy and,
dare i say it, poppy. Yes, Fugazi have made an album that touches
Oh, the straight-edge kids are going to hate me for that, but
it's true. There are keyboards, harmonized backing vocals, cello
(!), and catchy guitar hooks strewn about Fugazi's usual wasteland
of existential lyrics, screeching and stuttering guitars, and
amazing rhythm. There are songs that are so hum-alongable that
i wager even Malimus would enjoy them!
This album also uses some of the best beats that Fugazi have
put forward to date. Drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lolly
really shine on this album, and it's not like they were "just
the rhythm section" before so that is saying something. Ex-Spectator
is Canty's finiest moment: the drumming at the beginning of
the song is a brilliant little riff. Lolly shines brightest
on The Kill and Cashout with two unstoppable bass
And of course, Fugazi have guitars. Guitars which, on The
Argument, fluctuate from the algebraic rhythms that
Fugazi are known for (Full Disclosure and Argument
especially) to catchy riffing (Epic Problem) to something
entirely new for Fugazi, near as i can tell, acoustic (no kidding
-- Nightshop features acoustic guitarwork).
But what makes The Argument seem really different
comes in some of the other sounds on the disc. Cashout
has some nice cellowork from Amy Domingues. Strangelight
has an intense keyboard solo in the middle of it, and Argument
has some nice keys as well. The Kill has a whistling
solo(!) and Nightshop and Life and Limb feature
hand claps! No kidding -- it's like 1985 all over again!
Vocally Ian McKaye and Guy Picciotto turn in some of their
typically great work. Of course there is their usual leftist
ranting, but there are also harmonized vocals, something which
i have never associated with Fugazi before. Cashout uses
the harmony effect nicely, as does The Kill.
But don't think that all of this means that Fugazi have become
The Beach Boys. The music may use some pop effects, but the
intensity and the sheer existential tension of Fugazi are still
present. Just because they are using pop effects, don't think
they've gone all happy on us! It's still the same old Fugazi
you know and love just ... different.
When i listen to The Argument and note these
little differences i am reminded of that Q
And Not U album i got last year. Ian McKaye produced that
album, and it was released on Fugazi's own Dischord record label.
It used hand claps, keyboards, and vocal harmonies in a way
that approximated poppy post-punk new wave. Fugazi seem to be
doing that here as well, only they do it much much better. It
is as if McKaye learned a few tricks while working with Q And
Not U and then decided to try them out with his own band. It
really works, at least for me.
This also answers my dilemna, at least part of it. If it takes
Fugazi an album to work the kinks out of new musical ideas,
some of these kinks were burned on Q And Not U. Also, i forgot
about the Instrument soundtrack. This was a soundtrack
to a documentary about Fugazi, and is full of studio outtakes
and rough demos. As such, it is an interesting listen, but not
really on par with their "real" recorded catalog. I had not
considered Instrument in my list of Fugazi releases,
which is why i wasn't anticpating The Argument
too much. However, add Instrument into their discography,
consider McKaye's work with Q And Not U, and The Argument
comes up as an even numbered release, number 8.
Now i wonder, what will happen with release 9?