13 Songs (1989)
Album Score: 13
Fugazi, at least in 13 Songs, is a band that I have trouble trying to categorize. That probably shows me how useless it is to try to categorize bands in the first place, but I might try anyway just so you have an idea of what I'm listening to. They were certainly a product of the evolving underground scene where the bands were moving away from the horribly-fast-and-ugly hardcore-punk scene and starting to shift into something slower, moodier, and artsier.
Fugazi were started by Ian MacKaye, former member of the hardcore punk band Minor Threat. He said he was aiming to create “The Stooges but with reggae,” but I can only pretend I understand what he meant by that. If you talk to their diehard fans, they'll say that they started the whole guitar-rock alternative scene in the '90s, and they possibly even had a profound influence in the burgeoning grunge scene. This isn't a grunge album, but it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see where they're getting that.
13 Songs is actually a compilation of the band's first two EPs, but for the sake of simplicity, I want to call this their first album. It opens with an explosive song, “Waiting Room,” which features a heavy mid-tempo bass groove and some remarkably passionate scream-singing vocals. (Don't be put off about the “scream-singing.” He's not doing it just to sound ugly or loud, but to be dramatic.) They even undergo an unruly 'call and response' style interaction with the back-up singers, which makes it even more entertaining.
Yes, it seems that Fugazi were a band that actually seemed to be concerned with making their music entertaining. I know, that shouldn't be considered unusual goal for most bands, but after listening to some art-rock/post-punk bands from that decade, some of them seemed to have other goals in mind! Some of these songs have, I'm convinced, some of the greatest bass-lines in history. “And the Same” is completely made by that bass and drum groove; I could listen to that forever. But the good singing and the fuzzy fireworks provided by the electric guitarist are just bonuses!
“Burning” not only has a great and elegantly simple bass line, but those lead guitars play these amazing, siren-esque textures that literally feels like it's burning. That's definitely an art-rock song for the ages. “Bad Mouth” is just a great pop song; the guitar textures are bubbly and the vocal melody is catchy as hell. “Margin Walker” is another one of my favorites, and its overly sloppy guitar texture is about the only thing in here that strongly rings of grunge to me.
I didn't get to talk about all the songs I liked on this album, because I liked all of them. Maybe some of them, such as “Bulldog Front” and “Promises” didn't seem quite as special as the songs that surrounded it, but I still really enjoyed listening to those as well. Without a doubt, this is one album that you can buy and expect it to be solid throughout.
Despite this being justly categorized as “underground punk music,” I personally didn't find this difficult to like in the slightest bit, and remember that I'm not always one to scout out these sorts of records on my own free will. 13 Songs is one of those rare albums that I took one listen to and was pretty much hooked on it. They have a knack for catchy melodies, their songs seem passionate and emotional, and (perhaps most importantly) I frequently get a slight jolt of electricity running down my spine as I listen to it. If you're at all inclined to exploring the '80s and '90s underground scene, this is definitely something to check out.
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Album Score: 13
This is one angry album, and it's unbridled. I usually find such anger tiresome, but Fugazi somehow managed to create a wholly entertaining album out of it. More than that, it's an album I find worthy of lavishing heaps of praise upon! But before I start doing that, let me express some of the disappointments I have.
I don't like it quite as much as 13 Songs. The vocal melodies don't seem as hooky and playful, and I'm also not getting quite the same amount of awesome, ear-popping bass-lines. (There's the ultimate disappointment!) I have no idea what the general public thinks of Repeater compared to 13 Songs, so it will be interesting to read the response I get to this.
Other than that, this album is fantastic! It is filled to the brim with incredibly driven songs that I have an easy time getting caught up in even though I swear this sort of angry, ugly, guitar-led music continues to not really be my sort of thing. (I'm also still recovering over being a teenager in the '90s and absolutely hating the sort of music my peers were listening to. Naturally, I was a big geek with only one or two real friends. They made a lot of movies about people like me in the '80s except I was in a less cool decade.)
Perhaps I said I don't like the bass guitar as much as I did in 13 Songs, but that doesn't make Joe Lally any less interesting of a bassist. (I spent a whopping 10 seconds to look up his name on Wikipedia, which is proof that I find him interesting.) The bass thumps away perfectly complimenting those drums, which are just about as exciting and air-tight as they could possibly be. It's common for me to only dwell on lead guitars and singers when I review albums, but Fugazi had such a compelling rhythm section that I couldn't help it. They are what makes these ugly and angry songs fun. (Is it alright for me to say these songs are “fun?” I suppose I said the same thing about the Sex Pistols, and nobody raised a big stink over it.)
Naturally, the lead guitarist is excellent at creating those ugly distorted sounds. They are unpleasant to listen to by design, but they're gritty, they never annoy me, and they always seem to be doing something meaningful. So many other bands like this, Fugazi's copycats no doubt, seem to just be filling up space with boring noise. I might have said the vocal melodies didn't quite stick out at me as much as they did in the debut, but all of these songs continue to capture my attention in every respect. Even the ugly lead singing is compelling to me. Most bands that have lead singers who sound like they're projectile vomiting are awful, but Ian MacKaye comes across as nothing less than passionate.
I'll also say that Repeater is one of the more solidly consistent albums I've ever heard, and there's nothing in particular that sticks out at me as a highlight. That almost seems like a flaw to me, because I'm used to writing reviews that concentrates on gushing about individual songs, but I can't seem to do that here. I suppose if I were pressed to come up with a favorite, it would have to be “Shut the Door.” However, I might only be saying that, because I'm pretty sure I heard it somewhere before... that menacing riff sounds like it's been lurking in the back of my brain for quite some time! But I wouldn't be surprised if fans of this album pick something else as a favorite song, or more probably, like all of these songs equally.
If you enjoy heavily driven songs with menacing rhythms and angry vocals, then you can't go wrong with this. Even if you don't like that sort of music, you can't go wrong with this. See, I'm listening to it.
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Steady Diet of Nothing (1991)
Album Score: 11
As I mentioned at length in my previous two Fugazi reviews, this is a band that I don't usually listen to. However, in spite of that, I really enjoyed those albums; I found them intense, exciting, and wildly entertaining. My reaction to Steady Diet of Nothing, however, is much closer to how I initially suspected I'd react to a Fugazi record: I find it entirely respectable, but I've had a very difficult time getting into it. There are certainly bits and pieces of this that I enjoy unconditionally, but as a whole, I get rather tired of it by the time it's over. Call me an old man if you must.
Fugazi changed their sound from the previous album, which contained mostly mid-tempo songs with guitars that projected a cool feeling. In this album, the guitars are much more hardened and severe, and perhaps I'd even say they were more sweltering. In a big sense, it was great they changed their sound, because I'm sure nobody wanted them to keep rewriting the same album. On the other hand, I'm not too sure I like where they were headed. I described their previous albums as ugly and violent, but those terms are even more applicable to Steady Diet of Nothing, and it starts to inhibit my enjoyment of it.
Since I seem to be in love with this band's bassist (musically, not romantically even though I'm sure he's a nice guy), it's not a huge surprise that my favorite songs on this album are the ones with the strongest bass lines. “Reclamation” has a bass line for the ages; it is bouncy, it is creepy and it is menacing. Of course there's more to that song than the bass. The bass wouldn't have been quite as memorable if it weren't allowed to interchange perfectly with that thumpy drumming and a strangely huge lead guitar sound that's reminiscent of a full scale stringed orchestra.
“Latin Roots” doesn't have that cool, fluid bass that I like, but they put such an extreme amount of fuzz on it that it became powerful enough to play the main riff! (I don't know anything about how they put these songs together, but if that's not the bassist playing the riff, then the bassist wasn't on that song at all.) It's a simple but very catchy riff that contains so much grit and attitude that it smacks me in the face. I also have to appreciate that unusual echoing effect that the drummer incorporated into the mix! I didn't even notice this awesomely echoed drum when I scored the track reviews! So, I suppose that means that this album clearly warrants multiple listens just to sort out everything they did to it! Personally, I spent the better part of an entire day with this album, and it still feels like I have much more to go with it.
By far my biggest nitpick with a few of these songs (i.e., “Exit Only,” “Stacks” and “Polish,”) is that Fugazi had a tendency to put in these *stops* throughout their song in which the instruments would completely cease playing and we'd be subject to a few milliseconds of utter silence. These moments, albeit brief, just make me feel uncomfortable. Sure, Fugazi were a band that didn't want its audience to feel too comfortable, but that practice ends up just sending shivers up my spine.
Easily one of Fugazi's nicest qualities, was that they took extra care to develop each of these songs so that they always seem fresh. Pretty much no song sounds quite the same as it ends as it started, which is an impressive feat since most of these songs are barely over three minutes long. Sure, I get tired of the overall ugliness and intensity of these songs by the end, but at least they all showed that these guys were both formidable songwriters and instrumentalists. Even in the moments in this album when I hadn't been swept up by a riff, I've at least enjoyed listening to them play it; the bass guitar, lead guitar and drummer could sometimes be playing staggeringly different things, but they'd always seem to come together to create a punchy sound. It's quite amazing.
So, all in all, while this might hardly be my favorite Fugazi album, this is a pretty strong 11. Feel free to raise that rating to a 12 if intense and ugly music is your thing.
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In on the Kill Taker (1993)
Album Score: 12
It's commendable that Fugazi didn't want to repeat themselves from album-to-album, but they also didn't want to radically change their sound. I claimed that Repeater was a loud, ugly, and violent album. Compared to In on the Kill Taker, however, it's as sweet as a pussy cat. I suppose there was no else to evolve in the art-punk field than to get louder and more violent!
If I were to guess, I would say this album was inspired by a sticky hot summer day. When I listen to it, I can hear these guys sweating buckets. In Repeater, they were too cool for school. Here, they are tortured; I can't even be sure they were enjoying themselves. Since I have a natural reaction against ugly, tormented music, you might expect that I would immediately reject this album. I won't lie to you; that was my immediate reaction to it. After repeated listens, however, I noticed that I was starting to really enjoy it. It might not be pretty, but it's an electrifying and also inventive experience. Their playing throughout this album literally sounds like their instruments were on fire, but they didn't let that be an excuse to stop playing.
There are even a few instances when they experiment briefly with creating quiet and despondent atmospheres, such as that creepy, fuzz-ridden introduction to “23 Beats Off.” Even as I'm listening to such moments, I'm expecting something grisly and violent to pop up very soon. Indeed, if you hang around for a couple seconds, you'll hear Ian MacKaye come in with his horrifying screaming. If you hang on even longer, you'll start to hear them play screechy feedback noises for three straight minutes. However, don't be too afraid of that; as far as screechy feedback noises go, I've suffered through much worse under the direction of Neil Young. Fugazi actually lets their screeches evolve over time, gradually getting more distorted. I'm thankful that they use noise for a reason other than just to be noisy.
This is one of the most energetic albums probably in existence. The most energetic has got to be “Smallpox Champion,” which is easily my favorite song of the album. The tight, fast and thunderous guitars provide the backdrop of Guy Picciotto's loud, tortured but somehow still playful vocals. I can even hear some small and subtle electronic embellishments used. Specifically a beeping sound and a whirly sound. They might have been inessential touches, but they provide memorable decoration. (I also noticed that there's a *stop* in the middle of that song. But unlike such stops in their previous album, this one is much more well-placed and perhaps even necessary.) There's even more vocal goodness from Picciotto in “Walken's Syndrome,” a reference to Christopher Walken's bit part on Annie Hall. There are spots in the song when it sounds like he's screaming into a canyon, and it's very much fun to listen to. That song also happens to be rip-roaring, and also another one of my favorites of the album.
While their instrumentation abilities are undeniably tops, I've been mildly disappointed over the lack of catchy bass-lines in post-Repeater Fugazi records! Listening to their earlier albums, I've grown addicted to them. He plays tightly and rhythmically—he and the drummer compliment each other beautifully—but it's not hook-centric. That said, this album does contain one bass line for the ages, “Sweet and Low.” That also happens to be the most laid-back song of the album, and I've got to say I greatly appreciate that quiet moment before the torment begins again!
The ending song, “Last Chance For a Slow Dance,” is a minor disappointment; it seems like it could have been beefed up a bit. It's slowly paced, the riff isn't very catchy at all, and it seems about a minute too long. But that's still a rather menacing song, and any album should be proud to have a song like that be considered a “minor disappointment.” And I'm not just being soft because I don't want to piss off the fanboys... I genuinely consider this is a really good, solid album.
Even though this isn't the sort of sing-songey stuff I usually go for (Fugazi almost didn't seem interested in creating “songs” for this release), I found this to be an electrifying album filled with menacing atmospheres, scarily overheated performances, and inventive punk rock instrumentation. Steady Diet of Nothing was a similarly steamy and heated album, but In on the Kill Taker frequently makes me want to get up and dance with it until my head falls off. And considering the amount of sheer energy that's in here, it probably will!
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Red Medicine (1995)
Album Score: 12
This has been by far my easiest Fugazi listening experience ever since Repeater. I found that to be surprising because it has been purported by many to be their full-on “experimental” album. Not that the reputation isn't true—this is even more *out there* than their previous two albums. However, nobody told me that Fugazi's experimentation was playful. Whenever I see something described as “experimental,” I automatically assume that a code word for “not very listenable.” However, I found this to be album to be not only listenable, but quite fun.
Get a load of those clicky and squeaky sounds at the beginning of “Latest Disgrace.” I have no idea what that could be, but it's enough to pique my ears. Naturally, the song eventually launches into one of their full-on, fuzz-heavy rockers. Ian MacKaye and his scream singing might have gotten less youthful over the years, but that doesn't mean lost any of his passion. Like in the previous album, Guy Piccioto has a few chances to show off his cleaner and perhaps more stylized chops. He sings on the tight and danceable opener, “Do You Like Me.” It might not be Fugazi's most memorable song on record, but you'd have to be clinically dead if you don't find those tight guitar riffs exciting in any way. I mean, such loud music might not be your thing, but it will still get your blood flowing.
While there were a lot of strong candidates, the covered winner of The Best Song of the Album went to “Bed for the Scraping,” because that's the most intense and energetic song of the lot. That's really saying something, since that's a descriptor that applies to many of these songs. It's so fast-paced and tightly played that it transfers its energy into my legs and makes me wanna get out of this seat and dance. Some might say that MacKaye goes overboard with his scream singing. At one point, he plum gives up yelling out words and just let's out a blood curdling scream. But that's not overboard; such singing perfectly matches the energy projected by the instrumentals. They also brought back one former Fugazi staple for that song, which has made me very excited indeed. Long live catchy bass lines! And, thanks to the stars, that isn't the only catchy bass line of the album.
It's hard to pick a favorite, but maybe I like that snappy line at the beginning of “Target” the most. The bass-line doesn't last for long, but it left such a heavy impression on me that I'm actually a bit surprised it's so brief when I examined the song more closely. However, the bass-line had been sacrificed for a good cause, giving way for an even catchier and bouncier lead guitar riff. The bass doesn't go to sleep, of course; it thumps away contributing to an appealing, low-key rhythm that compliments the drums.
There are a few occasions when they decide to let rip their earsplitting, high-pitched guitars. “By You” starts out as a rather pretty acoustic piece, but it isn't long before one of their heavy grooves pipe up. But then instead of the lead guitar merely playing rhythmically or contributing melody, it's completely freaking out. Its high-pitched squeals are kept in the background for the most part until the end when the weak-of-heart might want to cover their ears! That said, I didn't find the song too difficult.
The only song that made me feel uncomfortable in any extreme way was “Birthday Pony,” and I'm not just talking about the experimental stuff that appears at the beginning, which I found kind of humorous (you'll hear an array of goofy sound effects while someone lumbers around on a piano). What I don't like about the song is that clunky riff. The way it flows, for whatever reason, rubs me the wrong way. I won't deny, however, that the song is boiling with intense energy, and I'm not too surprised that many fans have pinpointed it as one of their favorites.
Even though I've described their experimentalist tendencies in this album as playful, don't be too eager to go out and get it, especially if Fugazi's previous records haven't yet clicked with you. If their earlier albums haven't convinced you to be a Fugazi fan, it is unlikely this one will. On that same note, if you loved their previous albums, then you'll love this one as well. This has got to be one of the most consistently good bands in history.
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End Hits (1998)
Album Score: 12
This is said, by some, to be the most viciously underrated Fugazi album. Indeed, it only got three stars on All-Music Guide, which of course is the definitive guide to music on the Internet. (It is, though. I can't compete with it.) Before listening to it, I figured I wouldn't like it much either, since I always approach intentionally ugly music with caution. And if some of their hardcore fans accuse this album of being sloppy, then where does that leave me? And yet, somehow I don't hate it. On the contrary! It's a great album. That's coming from me, the man who was listening to ABBA in my car last weekend.
It might not be very tightly played or immaculately produced, but they try a lot of stuff in this album. And, you can hear a lot of it come out at lightning speeds within seconds of each other. “Place Position,” for instance, starts out fast-paced and very high energy with Piccioto singing in his stylishly electrifying manner. You can get used to the tight, sloppy riffs in its first half. But after a perfectly timed pause in the middle, you can no longer predict where the song is going to go next. The riff changes into something more violent, and at another point, they quiet down the instruments and create a rather creepy atmosphere. The song isn't even three minutes long, and yet there are enough ideas in it for three songs.
When it comes to picking a favorite piece off this album, it's gotta be either that one or “Recap Modotti.” Since I'm in love with Jah-Wobble-style bass guitar, my preference might go to that one. That walking bass-line he creates is awesome. It's catchy, it's stylish, and I feel like I can listen to it forever. There are some contributions from the lead guitar, and there's some very quiet singing on it, but nothing ever diverts my attention from the bass. That's the way it should be. I'll also have to give props to “Arpeggiator.” It sounds like they were playing with a computer program that creates scales based on mathematical algorithms, and they based an entire song on it. There's not a whole lot of musical quality to their arpeggio, but somehow they still make it cool.
For an album that's supposed to be Fugazi's worst, I find very little to dislike about it. I suppose some people complain that there are too many mid-tempo songs, but I actually like that about in. Particularly in “Foreman's Dog” where they create such a well-oiled groove (sort of reminiscent of The Rolling Stones' grooves in Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out) that I find it kind of fascinating. There's an interesting jangly riff they create for “No Surprise” … and no, they didn't turn into R.E.M. or anything. It's very, very dark and tense. If they made that one fast-paced, then it wouldn't have been quite as spooky. Those who like the fast stuff, though, will surely get their kicks out of “Five Corporations” and “Caustic Acrostic,” which is just about as high-energy as it could possibly get without coming off as jumbly. So, really, you get the whole spectrum of speeds with this album.
There are only two songs here that don't do much for me. “Floating Boy” starts out well with another awesome bass-line, but toward the end, it starts going off in a few tangents that bore me slightly. The closing track “F/D” is also oddly structured, and I have a hard time concentrating on it.
It's true that some of their ideas work and others don't, but it's clear to me that vast majority of it does, and many of their ideas are fascinating. Even the songs that bore me, I can't claim I've ever heard anything else like them. People have criticized this album of being sloppy and thrown-together. While the sloppy sound of it is undeniable and intentional, there's no way you could say it was thrown together. A thrown together album would be one filled with songs that go on forever without ever change riffs and/or textures. That doesn't describe these songs at all; it's crazy how much they evolve.
If you think this was thrown-together as an album, then you must also think that human beings were thrown-together as a species. If you want evidence of this, take a look at all those paragraphs of words I wrote in the track reviews while only rarely going off topic. These songs gave me a lot of stuff to think about. When it's all said and done, this was a solid 12. There might have been some approachability to a 13, but let's not linger on that. I'll add that this is not a good pick to start with Fugazi if you're new to them. Make it one of your last purchases. But still purchase it.
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Album Score: 11
Fugazi's worst album? Yes. By a mile. No question. Fans and non-fans worldwide are in unanimous agreement. Some don't even count this as an actual album so that they can move the discussion onto something more contentious. And not counting this as a real album is pretty legitimate, because it is a collection of outtakes and demos that were featured in the soundtrack to the Fugazi documentary of the same name. I've never seen this documentary, and I don't think I ever will, so I can't tell you how it works as a soundtrack. (Truth be told, I'm having trouble even imagining these tracks in a soundtrack.) Nonetheless, I can tell you that this is still a pretty damn good Fugazi record anyway.
It's probably a good thing I never saw the movie, because that means I won't spend half of this review talking about the movie. Instead, I'll spend most of this review talking about a song called “Lusty Scripps.” I had no idea what Scripps were until I looked it up on urbandictionary.com just now, and discovered that it's a women's college in California where its students apparently don't do a whole lot of studying in their dorm rooms. So perhaps it's a song about an '80s college road trip movie? ...Well it's got an awesome bass line. Not that '80s college road trip movies had awesome bass-lines in them...
But anyway, “Lusty Scripps” is an awesome piece with an awesome bass-line, and this album is worth it just for that. It's so bad-ass that I hear it wearing sunglasses. (At night.) It's an instrumental, too, so there's none of that tormented singing to distract us from the bass. However, there is some rough lead guitar playing some interesting noodles, and some weird out-of-tune horn thing blaring in the background. These embellishments only compliment the bass like a good vegetable garnish. (Boy, I'm full of questionable metaphors today, aren't I?)
The vast majority of these songs are instrumentals. Some are even demo versions of songs that appeared mostly in End Hits such as “Pink Frosty,” “Apreggiator,” and “Guilford Fall.” However, there's one from In on the Kill Taker, “Rend It.” I find it odd that they didn't cover a whole lot of songs that I particularly wanted to hear demo versions of! Why not bring back a few more of my favorite Fugazi songs? Were they so awesome that they didn't have to cut demo versions of them? ...Probably.
“Turkish Disco” sounds nothing like the song title, which is why it's one of the best tracks on this disc. (Not that I really know what a Turkish disco is actually like, but I'm using my imagination, and I'm telling you it's not pretty.) The bass and guitar patterns are cool and mesmerizing as hell. It's a little like listening to wind chimes, except they're playing a groove. “Turkish Disco” and “Lusty Scripps” are so awesome that I have trouble believing they couldn't have found room for them on one of their more “legitimate” releases. “Little Debbie” is one of the album's few singing songs—its riffage and singing are so intense and fun that their hardcore fans will have no trouble whatsoever loving it.
But when it's all said and done, those are the only three tracks of this 18-track song that gets me excited in any big way. Although I suppose I'm theoretically excited that this album contains Fugazi's one and only piano ballad, “I'm So Tired.” But don't expect “Piano Man” or anything... it sounds dreary and hopeless, like the song title would suggest. The piano and singing seems amateurish (which isn't a bad thing at all but rather an appropriate fit for the mood), and the melody is quite good. I also like the dark vibe I get from “Swingset.” Not too sure why dark thoughts come to their minds about swingsets, since all my swingset memories have Sharon, Lois, & Bram songs associated with them. But whatever.
Even though this is Fugazi's demos and outtakes album, I still find it interesting. It certainly beats the pants off of the Rolling Stones' Metamorphosis! Obviously, it's not a tight and perfected product that all their earlier studio albums were, but everyone knows that going in. Fugazi fans probably don't listen to this album a whole lot, but they would certainly be amiss without it in their collection. Let's call it a weak 11.
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The Argument (2001)
Album Score: 13
Fugazi entered the 21st Century, released one album The Argument that everybody loved, and then promptly went on an “indefinite” hiatus. That's a shame, but I can't say I blame them for wanting to get on with other things; for sure, they made some of the best albums of the '90s. They paid their dues to the universe. Many have dubbed The Argument an uncharacteristic album. That's probably justified, since it's like a continuation of their efforts in their previous uncharacteristic album, End Hits, to subdue their sound and concentrate more on creating quieter textures. Nevertheless, this album still has its fair share of hard-rocking, scream-singing bits of merry mayhem, but far many more of these songs are calmer and—I might even say—contemplative.
There are a few moments in this album that I swear I hear some hand-claps. You know, the same sort of “CLAP-CLAP!” that was all over David Bowie's “Fashion.” Might these guys have also been drifting, ever so slightly, into the world of pop-rock? Because that would have been cool. (Maybe I'm the only person in the world who thinks so.) Also, many of these songs are actually quite pleasant for me to listen to. I've said a lot of things about Fugazi's many amazing songs, but “pleasant” was rarely one of them. “The Kill” is a good example of this. It's a nice, mid-tempo rhythm with a happy bass-guitar going “dupey-dooo / dupey-dooo / dupey-doooeooo.” I mean, I can listen to that with a smile on my face. Of course, it's still a faaaaaar cry from being something like an ordinary Wings song since its overall effect is quite druggy and hazy, in particular because of those delicate, wobbly guitars playing throughout. The lead vocals, taken on by Joe Lally, also is quite droning, sounding a bit like his nose was stuffed up. It's an interesting song!
I hear some very lovely piano playing at the very beginning of “Strangelight,” which is another uncharacteristic move for them. I only hear it at the very beginning, but still—keyboards of any sort are a rarity in Fugazi's illustrious discography. After the introduction, that song launches into another one of their subdued and complicated textures. Although I do have a complaint about it: Certain portions of it overstay its welcome for me. It seems like the song would have been better off if they tightened it up a bit. I have similar complaints about the album closer, “Argument.” ...However, when it's all said and done, my complaints about these songs are little more than nitpicks, since my brain still seems to enjoy the experience of unraveling some of the complex textures they came up with.
“Full Disclosure” is one of the most amazing songs here, and perhaps one of the most amazing songs ever written of all time. (It's a grand statement, but you try to deny that, sonny!!!) At some points, the guitars are making such fast-paced and dazzling scales that it sounds a bit like they were gearing up to play “Flight of the Bumblebee.” That's also an interesting song for the melody, which Guy Picciotto scream-sings as intensely and passionately as he possibly could. However, its chorus is poppier, and his calmed down vocals are accompanied by some light “ooooooooo” sounds in the background. Again, with the gravitation toward pop music! I also really like “Cashout,” which is probably this album's finest showcase of their ability to create complicated and compelling guitar and drum textures. It has a catchy melody too!
People who like it best when Fugazi rocks out as much as they could physically are sure to loooove “Epic Problem” and “Ex-Spectator.” The highlight of “Epic Problem” is Ian MacKaye's fantastic scream-singing performance in which he on a few occasions scream “STOP!,” which elicits a bendy guitar response from the guitars... You're really just going to have to hear it... “Ex-Spectator” is more slowly paced, but those guitars are heavy playing all sorts of power-chords. “Nightstop” is the spookiest song of the album—the guitars are dark and play one of the more subtly menacing riffs that I've ever heard. “Oh” isn't one of my favorite songs here, but they do find a surprisingly quirky groove. It's perhaps a like a looser version of a song from Talking Heads' Fear of Music. Again, it's “uncharacteristic” of them, but it's not necessarily unwelcome.
So there it is: the final Fugazi album. There will never be another one. That's is unless they get back together, but it's been such a long time that it'll be called a “reunion” album. I do hope they come back together some day, though, but if that day never comes, at least The Argument was a great way for them to go out. These songs might be much more subdued than they were in their classic albums, such as Repeater, but the textures they create consistently in this album are really quite amazing. I'm gonna call this one a weak-13.
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