Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fugazi - 7 Songs EP

This is where it all began. Or at least, this is one of the places where it all began, again.

Fugazi's first release, Dischord 30 in 1988 was this self-titled seven-song EP. Now better known as the first half of the 13 Songs album, with their second EP, Margin Walker (to be posted subsequently). It is obviously the bridge between Fugazi's later, more progressive output and the nascent hardcore and post-hardcore of Minor Threat, Embrace, Rites of Spring, One Last Wish, Egghunt, etc. I don't know what exactly it was like to hear this fresh for the first time 20 years ago, but I reckon it must have been pretty great.

You see, I'm a bit of a conflicted Fugazi fan. I've never gotten into albums like Red Medicine, The Argument or even In On The Kill Taker; I enjoy Steady Diet of Nothing adequately - enough to name a blog after it, at least - but really, 13 Songs and Repeater are where it's at for me in relation to Fugazi listening.

I absolutely won't deny the quality of the other albums, but they aren't where I am with regards to musical headspace, right now. Which is a little strange, since I consider myself to listen to a fairly broad range of post-hardcore music, though mostly those - like Hot Water Music, for example - who ran with the early Fugazi sound. Still, I do sometimes get the feeling like I'm trapped in 1991.

The important thing with Fugazi, whichever of their albums you listen to, is that they write smart, progressive hardcore songs and play their guts out without simply being loud and aggressive. On that basis, they have become undeniable world leaders in modern punk rock.

(The above photo is from the inner sleeve of the EP, showing the iconic cover image of Guy Picciotto (by Adam Cohen) presumably just after having been taken. The sleeve photo, as indicated by the signature, is by Glen E. Friedman. Dischord Records are now shipping, for $25, Keep Your Eyes Open: The Fugazi Photographs of Glen E. Friedman, a collected 9x11" hardcover book of photographs from between 1987 and 2002. Sounds good!)

7 Songs starts off with 'Waiting Room' - "I am a patient boy, I wait I wait I wait" - with its great walking bass line and instantaneous hardcore crunch, it's a great catchy hardcore song. The next song is a bit more expansive, coming in waves of distortion and feedback to collapse finally into the rhythic intro for the following, third song - these two 'Bulldog Front', and 'Bad Mouth', exemplify the theme of deconstucting hardcore, taking apart the aggressive attitude and replacing it with something - lyrically and musically - with a more critical eye. 'Burning', closing the first side, takes a more metaphysical approach, as well as containing some of the abstractions familiar in most other Fugazi songs - "There's something acting on this body"... "I wanted a language of my own, my lips sucked empty and I mouthed the lines". Moreover, it performs that classic balancing act between rhythm-led, tense grooves and semi-explosive, semi-cathartic guitar noise that pretty much defines, insofar as anything does, the Fugazi sound.

The flip side amps this up even more with 'Give Me The Cure' which, after a curiously melodic opening, turns into a taut, driving behemoth of a song. On this track, I think, the band first really hit their groove, on "I've never thought too hard on dying before", hitting with a searing intensity and an economical running time. 'Suggestion', again, is a slightly longer song, but with the same kind of rhythms and curled-in melodies. Lyrically, it's a cutting examination of sexual politics, and in the end a hard-hitting statement that "we are all guilty". Again, like 'Burning', the conclusion comes screaming in from near-silence, but switching instantly into the explosive opening of 'Glue Man'. Guy Picciotto's harsher vocals taking the lead on "I spent it all", it has all the heavy, layered feelings of the Fugazi sound with an extra metallic, discordant edge - a perfect atmosphere of near-psychosis for the subject matter. And there, with a single drumbeat over feedback, it ends.

(The drawing above is my own, one of my older ones, inspired by the lyrics to 'Bulldog Front')

Fugazi - 7 Songs

Fugazi on Dischord Records

Fugazi - 13 Songs on eMusic


sweet baby jaysus said...

i found this on vinyl when i first moved to seattle, i probabbly wouldn't have bought it (as i have owned this record several times and am content with my autographed copy. i know i'm a nerd) had it not had their lyric sheet from their first tour. it was a pretty awesome score, especially considering the previous owner had dated the lyric sheet and as it turns out predates the recordings by a few weeks. one of the most influential records of my life.

gabbagabbahey said...

yeah, I liked your description of 'Waiting Room' from when you posted 13 Songs. Personally I heard Repeater first, but I've always oscillated between which of those albums I prefer most.

blend77 said...

Waiting Room and all attendant songs is some of the most important music to my little life.

Fugazi is one of the most photogenic, and kinetically so, bands of the past 50 years. Guy in particular really contorts himself and flings himself in harms way with much aplomb.

You've all seen Instrument right?

Well, this an Repeater have the two best photos.

Great stuff. A Dischord morning.

gabbagabbahey said...

I meant to work in something about Fugazi's design aesthetic - just flicking through the Repeater CD booklet and was amazed how good the lyrics look, all blockily printed. Even way 'Fugazi' is kerned on the 7 Songs/13 Songs cover. It's all very distinctive.

d. said...

Hearing this for the first time 20-years ago was like a blast of fresh, cool water to the face. It just got better from there. Thanks for the reminder.

gabbagabbahey said...

ah! thanks for letting me know

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Frank 'the Louis' Allen said...

sweet I used to run on the beach to this and Repeater . Got it on Vinyl as well it brilliant...