13 Songs (1989)
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Waiting Room A+
This song is almost so good that I have a hard time coming up with anything to say about it. Or maybe I'm a little bit overwhelmed by it. I suppose the first thing I could mention is that quickly vibrating bass is really catchy, which is amazing since it's only playing three notes very many times. The second thing I could mention is the vocal melody is simple but catchy, and it's sung in a very passionate sort of punk-ish, screaming way. They do this entertaining sort of call-and-response thing with some very unruly sounding back-up vocals. They bring in a few stops here and there and a few bits where a wall of electric guitars pipe up, and they were perfectly planned. As a whole, this thing is fun to listen to and it has personality.
Bulldog Front A-
A little more subdued and menacing than the last one, which is good, but it's perhaps not quite as appealing to me. Of course I still get caught up in its mean atmosphere, and they come up with rather passionate scream-singing. It's like they are singing hardcore punk music to slower music! (Oh yeah... I figured it out...)
Bad Mouth A+
This one actually sounds a bit poppy to me, and I'm not sure how die-hard Fugazi fans are going to feel about that. But this music is very catchy, and that's the sort of thing I like! The rapidly playing, rapid guitars create a boiling texture that keeps it interesting to my ears. Of course they accent this with hard, punkish guitars and that scream-singing.
Geez, they just keep on coming with these things. First of all, that dark riff they come up with is both catchy and scary, and you can hear the heat sizzling off pavement with those siren noises they make with those guitars. The singing continues to be passionate, this time sounding like he's a little desperate for a drink of water. Or I guess their eyes were burning. (I should really pay more attention to lyrics!)
Give Me the Cure A-
It starts out pretty mild and perhaps a little poppy with a hopping bass line. But that gradually moves to a much darker, dirtier, and scarier atmosphere, which isn't usually my favorite sound in rock music, but the pay off is they continue to bring up another riff that is catchy although perhaps not extremely memorable.
This one has a rather clean, punchy and catchy riff that's repeated over and over again, which is occasionally interrupted by a flood of heavy guitars. I'm not exactly hanging onto its drama like I was to “Burning,” but I'd say this was more fun to listen to. Their dramatic vocal performances continue to be entertaining... It might just be scream-singing to most of us, but he does find different ways to scream-sing. At times, his voice seems almost friendly until he lets it rip with an incredible bout of rage!
Glue Man A
This is a song I'm just impressed with. Their hardcore punk singing sounds like they're passing a kidney stone, but that very controlled mid-tempo pattern gives it an even more menacing tone. (Man! Is this even more menacing than actual hardcore punk? My vote is yes.) There's this wobbly stereo effect they put on their guitars, which gives it an even more interesting texture. This isn't a very nice song, but certainly accessible to people like me who don't naturally gravitate toward noisy post-punk music.
Margin Walker A+
Surely one of my favorites of this disc. This marked the beginning of the second EP that comprised of 13 Songs, and this is a pretty lively thing. The bouncy bass would've worked well on any pop song, but of course they use those heavy, fuzzy guitars and angry scream-singing to give it that rough post-punk sound they were going after. I get whiff of early grunge in this. Surely they were among the “early influences.” For my money, this is about as good as this sort of music gets. The singing is loud and ugly, but it still comes off as passionate and listenable, and those guitars sound good. Not too distorted to drown everything out, but not clean enough to sound wussy. Great guitars.
And the Same A+
One of the great bass-lines, for sure. This reminds me of early Public Image Ltd, which of course had one of the world's finest bass-players until they fired him. But anyway, I'll just listen to that ultra-suave bass interact with the drum groove for an hour and I would never get tired of it. Of course, this is an actual song, and the vocal melody is catchy and those funny, echoing, squeaking sounds they make with their guitars makes some interesting textures. (Sorry, “funny, echoing, squeaking” is as good as I get!) This definitely sounds a lot more like classic post-punk than grunge, apart from those crazy fuzzy guitars in the chorus. The vocals sound clean (XTC-ish) and there isn't a whole lot of scream-singing. Hey, nothing against scream-singing, but sometimes I like listening to singers who don't sound like they're being tortured!
Burning Too A
They're continuing to come out with these catchy songs. I don't know how I got XTC in my head all of the sudden, but they started to adopt their singing patterns as well as general songwriting style. That bass is very clean and bouncy, and the singing also has that clean feeling about it. The main difference is the guitars in a more hellish chorus are very loud and fuzzy, and there's someone screaming “Gotta put it out!”
Even these songs that don't strike me quite as “special” as the other songs are still a lot of fun to listen to. I guess that's why everybody in the world likes Fugazi! They come up with a number of evolving, echoing and fuzzy guitar textures while the singer gives a sort of typical scream-singing performance over it. The bass and riff are fine and keep the song lively, but they don't strike me as memorable as the other songs.
Wow! Even though all of these songs, no matter which EP they sprung from, could be characterized as rather ugly post-punk music, they seem to always come up with more material to surprise me. This one comes off as quicker and more frantic than the others, which interestingly brings this closer to the actual hardcore punk sound that they were steering away from. Definitely more like a Minor Threat song than anything else in here. But it's great to get a pure raging rush of energy every once in awhile, and that rapidly played guitar riff and dancey bass mesmerizes me. Definitely another great song for this album.
Another mid-tempo song, but this one doesn't seem to excite me a whole lot. (Well enough for it to handily deserve that A-, but I don't hear any especially catchy bass-lines, melodies, or anything...) This does seem to plod along for awhile, but the gradually intensifying guitar textures and the passionate singing rule the day.
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This is why Fugazi is such a strange band to me: They sound like everything I didn't like about popular music when I was a teenager in the '90s. They are loud. They are ugly. They were popular. And yet, I like them completely. This is strange. I'm fighting a sinking feeling right now that I can't like anything on this album more than anything on 13 Songs. Even though this is a driven song that has a lot of distorted guitars and a cool bassline, there were plenty of songs in their earlier album that stuck out at me more than this. They do sound utterly committed to this song, however, and that helps me believe it. I don't really find the melody “hooky” that much, but it really didn't need to be. It has all the juice it ever needed.
They upped the ugly guitar for this one, but it's nonetheless structured well with a driving beat and engaging drum beat. The screeching guitar hurts my eardrums if I have the volume on too loudly. I can't deny that this thing is wholly entertaining, though, and the scream-singing continues to be utterly convincing. There are some hooks in the melody, too, which is just icing on this cake. (Is it just me, or does it sound more like they're saying “Velveeta” than “Repeater?”)
Brendan #1 A
Alright. I'll go right out and say what maybe somebody somewhere thought once before: The percussion heavy intro reminds me of Adam Ant. Not that that's a terrible thing... The Adam Ant sound is just about as good as it gets if you're writing a percussion heavy beat! The bassist thumping away busily along with the drums is almost easy to miss, but he's sounding menacing as hell! This song is busy and it's mesmerizing. Of course it doesn't take long for them to layer on the guitar textures, and they do make that just about as interesting as can be. Somehow, this song is about as convincing as the other songs even though it's an instrumental.
I just wrote the entire review body after reviewing “Brendan #1,” which is a little unusual for me! But this is one of those albums that stays pretty dang consistent the whole way through, and I'm pretty sure that concentrating on these songs individually won't change my opinion at all. (Track reviews aren't nearly as much of an integral part of these reviews as they used to be, which I consider to be a good thing!) I'm not capable of gushing over the obvious skill it took to complete this song, but … wow, these guys are absolutely *tight* playing this fast-paced and exciting song. Is the vocal melody interesting as well? You bet.
They don't launch right into another loud and angry song right away. They create a quiet and subdued guitar pattern at the beginning of this, I presume, to let us catch our breaths for a bit! I appreciate that! When it does get louder and uglier, they give us a song that's a little more slowly paced than the others, but it isn't any less menacing than the other songs. They keep that angry tone quite consistently, but they seem to find different ways of expressing that.
Sieve-Fisted Find A
What I continue to find strangely compelling about this band is that they're able to keep this consistently angry tone with their work and yet I don't get tired of it. I'm supposed to be tired of angry songs by now, especially since I've been listening to this album all evening, but it's not happening. The riff is way too catchy, the rhythm is way too tight and exciting, and the vocals are too passionate for me to think of anything bad about it.
If they're going to be so angry, at least they're writing about one of the seven deadly sins! I find that somewhat disconnected riff to be slightly disconcerting, which is why I felt justified to break the pattern and award this song a rating less than the others! But it's still good. Also they kept it at less than two minutes, which is just about perfect, and they manage to do quite a bit in that time.
Two Beats Off A
Man, the song was already really good when it started with that subdued electric guitar riff and then those quasi-power chords. They probably could have spent the entire song on that tangent, and I would have been convinced. But then they bring in this really cool rapidly paced, catchy, and evil bass-line. Yes, you'll have to listen to it to know what I'm talking about.
Styrofoam is another legitimate reason to be angry. Especially when you feel it scraping against something. (OK... maybe that's just one of those slightly abnormal pet peeves that I have!) This is one of the album's more driving and fast-paced songs, which is just what the doctor ordered after the previous two songs, which weren't fast-paced. The bass and drum continues to be extremely exciting and fun. The vocals are loud, ugly, and I'm still not tired of them. In fact, it's giving me energy. It's really no wonder that Fugazi has such passionate fans among people who normally like this sort of thing.
Sometimes the penultimate track on an album is an excuse for a band to slack off. Not Fugazi. They continue to come up with an angry sounding tone that is catchy to my ears and fun to listen to. It sounds like everything else on the album, but it also doesn't sound like they're repeating themselves. (I wasn't even thinking of the album name when I thought of that. Oh, how amusing.)
Shut the Door A+
Well I suppose one good reason to restrain myself from giving out any A+s in an extremely solid album was so that I could finally award it to the one with the coolest bass-line. I also swear I've heard this somewhere before. Was it a big hit back in the day? If I heard it in my teenager days, I would have scowled at it, because the lead singer sounded ugly and was screaming his head off. But I just didn't understand the coolness of the bass. It's 100 percent catchy, it's smooth and cool, and it compliments the catchy melody and distorted guitars in the foreground perfectly. Those lead guitars might be distorted, but they're actually rather bouncy and playful. Even though they're ugly and not supposed to be liked, I like them. It's sort of like Shrek, except I never really liked Shrek.
Song #1 A+
I just got done with the Repeater part, and now I'm onto the +3. This sounds quite a bit more punky than the previous songs and actually seems more suited to 13 Songs! But didn't I say that I liked 13 Songs better than Repeater despite all the praise I've lavished on it? The vocals, most notably, are call-and-response style, which was prevalent in their debut but I didn't catch a whiff of until now in Repeater.
Joe #1 A-
Yes, Joe is #1. I used to know somebody named Joe, and he was awesome. Listening to that call-and-response stuff in the earlier song I think must've spoiled me, because I'm apparently giving an A- to a song that has such a cool bass-line! Maybe I think this song could have stood to be punched up a little bit with some vocals or even some more involving electric guitar. This actually seems to me like a part of a film soundtrack albeit an unusually cook film soundtrack.
Once again, I get the punk vibe to this, which I didn't get nearly this much in the regular album. Is it entertaining? You bet. I just read on Wikipedia that Fugazi was only able to record this album in the mornings between 9 and 11, because they were sharing the studio with a culinary school. I find that to be pretty funny.
Steady Diet of Nothing (1991)
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Exit Only A-
I mentioned plenty of times in my two previous Fugazi reviews that this would be classified as a violent band. Now, they seem to be writing music that's not only more violent, but done with a marked expression of horror. I'm talking specifically about that menacing, pulsating bass guitar. Yeesh, it's like a monster! Then those distorted, screetchy electric guitars you can hear lightly in the background give it more of a spooky atmosphere. Around the minute mark, the whole thing *stops*, which manages to frighten me even more! I have a difficult time getting into such horrific music, but I don't like horror films either! But what I do like is that awesome bass guitar and it's attitude.
BASS GUITAR!!!! Fugazi is one of the few bands that proves that the bassist doesn't have to be the lamest band member. In fact, the bass guitarist could be way more awesome than everyone else. That deep, creepy loop he plays gives this thing all the attitude it needs. But, of course, the other band members are pulling their weight. The lead guitarist plays these strangely large electric guitar chords that sounds to me like an orchestral string section. The singing, just as it was throughout the previous Fugazi albums, are screamed at the top of his lungs, and I somehow actually buy it as passion. ...And since I'm mentioning every member of the band (not by name), the drumming is about as good as it gets. He plays a menacing, thumpy rhythm to match that bass-groove and keeps the excess fills to a minimum.
Nice New Outfit B+
Wow, I managed really get into “Reclamation,” but I'm just not feeling this one at the center of my gut. Perhaps it's because there's nothing particularly special that the guitarists are playing, seeming to favor playing relatively plain chords instead of doing something more awe-inspiring as they did in the previous track. Although the guitars are still tight and menacing, which certainly contributes to the horror-movie atmosphere that I associate this whole album with! The star of this show has to be the drummer, which is playing such a menacing, thumpy beat that I start to get paranoid listening to it.
Feel free to raise these ratings if you like violent guitar music from the '90s. I think I already mentioned at length that this sort of thing is usually out of my domain! I'll tell you that I like the riff, but those extremely frequent *stops* get on my nerves enough that I get pretty annoyed with this one. It still gets that B because, apart from those stops, it's structured interestingly. Most songs sound the same from beginning to end, but this one is constantly changing around.
Latin Roots A+
Ah, here's a song that I hold no reservations about enjoying the crap out of, although I'm not entirely sure if that's because it doesn't contain any of those spine-tingling stops that the previous song had, or if it's just *that* much more enjoyable. As you'd suspect, this is a loud and violent song, but it has an especially excellent riff that's played at a verrrrrrrrrrrrry deep tone. That must be the bassist playing that riff, because I don't hear any bass otherwise, and the lead guitarist seems occupied playing these busy and distorted things in the background. Once again, the drumming is tight and makes this experience even more punchy.
Steady Diet A
An instrumental! It also happens to be the second longest song of the batch, clocking in at an epic 3:42. I suppose it's nice to have a track where we get to pay just attention to the instruments, although I don't think the lead singing was actually distracting me from that in the previous track! I can't say there is anything wonderfully special about the guitars except for the fact that they're playing very deeply and menacingly. At one point toward the end a higher-pitched guitar comes in sounding like a wailing banshee.
Long Division A-
This song is only two minutes long, and it's also probably the album's nicest. The lead guitarist plays a simple riff on the acoustic guitar, and the drums come in tightly and snappily to keep things punchy. The bass guitarist is playing its own separate groove of course, and the way these instruments work together produces something quite ear catching.
Runaway Return B+
Once again, feel free to raise this a rating if you want. As for me, I'm not nearly as excited by this as I think I should be. The riff strikes me as rather dull, but I can at least like the interplay between that ultra-fuzzy bass and the lead guitar. It's almost a call-and-response thing they have going. Other than that, there isn't great appeal to me. The moment in the final third when they quieted the song and merely strummed light chords with their guitars was a good idea, but I felt they could have done a bit more with that.
Are there people out there who like it when these guys insert these sudden pauses of silence into these songs? Occasionally such a thing might work, but here it just makes me feel uncomfortable. But then again, I'm guessing that sort of thing is what they were aiming for. They weren't The Carpenters, after all. The scream-singing is more passionate here than it is in other spots of this album, and I'm still surprised at how convincing he is at that. Other than that, there's nothing in particular about the guitar riffs or tones that capture my fancy.
Dear Justice Letter A-
I confess that at this point of the album, both on my precursory listens and right now as I'm writing the track reviews, I'm getting tired of the album. The constant barrages of violent guitars and scream-singing vocals seems to get a bit tiring to me. This is at contrast with their previous two albums when I felt more energized after getting finished listening to the albums! Anyway, stepping back from my overall feeling about the album as a whole, they pull off an amazingly menacing atmosphere with an especially druggy/hazy riff.
They certainly end this off with one of the more memorable tracks here! The drumming is, as always, very tight and helps keep it exciting. The vocal melody is a little more tuneful than many of the other songs here, and that's to its benefit. (Not that the melodies on the other songs were lacking at all, but of course they're not even close to how catchy they were all throughout 13 Songs... But, of course, as I'm probably going to get in e-mails, Fugazi weren't a sing-songey sort of band...) The lead singing is reduced to pure screaming in parts, and that intensity smacks me around a little bit.
In on the Kill Taker (1993)
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Facet Squared A
I might not personally share Fugazi's taste in music, but even I can see that they have good taste. Yes, this album continues Fugazi's quest in creating some of the world's ugliest music, but they actually make it enjoyable. The secret is the bouncy and menacing bass and drum rhythms that begin ominously at the beginning of the track, but by the end, they give me the impulse of standing up and jumping up and down with them. The scream singing is even more hellish than it was on their earlier albums... and maybe he's starting to go too far. It's getting nearly unintelligible and doesn't strike me as being quite as passionate as it used to. That said, he's still better than most people who sing in such a manner. The lead guitars are screechy and ugly... like they're engulfed in flames, or something.
Public Witness Program A
Not a long song at all, but it's so fast paced and menacing that the energy left over from the previous track emanates from it. The vocals are sung boisterously, which is certainly appropriate for their instrumentation I suppose I could complain that the bass isn't playing a very catchy groove! ...But naturally they're writing different sorts of songs than they did for their first two albums. This stuff is more heated.
Returning the Screw B+
I'm a little surprised that I'm less reactive to their quiet and menacing moments. The first half of this song consists of a fade-in and a decent bass riff. It's menacing, but it doesn't do a whole lot to capture my interest. Soon enough they start bringing on some stinging guitar chords, and Ian MacKaye starts to sing louder. This is very artistic, but I'm not swept up by it.
Smallpox Champion A+
This still sounds like soundtrack music to Hell... and it also happens to be exciting as hell. They're completely getting it on. It's not so much of a “song” since I don't hear a melody, but this is more like a crazy, fast-paced and screaming song that you're supposed to insanely jump up and down to. It's not terribly complicated; it's a riff-based song of course, and the riff isn't that interesting. But they always seem to find inventive things to do with it. The guitars always seem to find an odd but bright new texture to keep things fresh. The scream-singing in particular is wild, playful, and laden with personality. It sort of reminds me of how John Lydon sings in PiL songs.
Rend It A-
I suppose with this album, either the ugliness bothers me or it doesn't. Here, it's starting to get to me a bit. Maybe that's because this is a mid-tempo song, and the incredible urge to get up from my seat and jump up and down was diverting to me. However, I do like that drunken bass line that starts this song off. Naturally, they bring up those loud guitars, and they sound just as firey and violent as they've always have in this album. The scream singing is quite good here... he's even given the chance to sing a cappella in a few spots. (Whether you actually want to hear MacKaye sing without musical accompaniment is another matter!)
23 Beats Off B+
This is one of the more “artistic” songs of the album, which is a code-word meaning that it's one of the less enjoyable ones. And of course the reason I don't find it particularly enjoyable is because it's not very sing-songey. However, the intense energy they give off as they perform this song is quite amazing, and they're able to pull that off consistently though its near 7-minute running length. As with most songs here, the first part of it is taken on by an ominous bass groove. By the time we get to the middle, the lead guitars start to play louder and quicker, and MacKaye starts his scream-singing. The last half of the song consists of screechy feedback noises that sound like a cross between an airplane and fingernails screeching against a chalkboard while a hacked-at drum plays. It's horrific, but not necessarily in a bad way. I mean, it's terrible to listen to, but I'm somehow still glued to it. Thankfully, it only lasts a few minutes, and the really awful stuff doesn't come until the very end. They're much more considerate than Neil Young.
Sweet and Low A
Well I've been waiting for a song like this to happen... one with an excellent bass line. I was always thinking how disappointing it was for Fugazi to have one of the most interesting bassists in history only to get to the seventh track before he delivers what I'd consider a great bass line. It's so cool and bouncy... and it's so catchy that it's the only thing I really care to listen to. ...And honestly, there's not much else for you to listen to since this is an instrumental! There's a chorus of sorts where the lead guitars get a chance to play an echoing texture. It's quite good! That said, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Fugazi fans cite this as the worst song of the album since it's very laid back and rather pleasant, which is quite a contrast to most of the songs here. (Although I suppose you could say the same thing about “Smallpox Champion,” which I described as playful.)
There's a drum solo at the beginning of this! Eh, why not have a drum solo? It's rhythmic, and it introduces the song quite well. Naturally, the screechy guitars come up pretty quickly accompanied with the scream-singing. Certainly not the most memorable song of the lot, but it's still loud and full of energy.
Great Cop A
This song isn't complicated, but it's energetic, and it takes me along with them. It's just less than two minutes long, and consists mostly of tight and thick guitar riff and more of MacKaye's signature scream-singing. I also like that muted guitar solo they brought in the final third. It was probably an unnecessary touch, but it proved to be one of the more memorable parts to this.
Walken's Syndrome A
I was going to say this was the disease some people have of enunciating words in bizarre patterns... But I guess they did actually name this off of Christopher Walken, except it's based on his character in Annie Hall who has to fight off the urge of killing himself when he's driving a car. Anyway, what a better band to write about such a psychosis than Fugazi? This is probably close to what was running through his mind! They start this off with some sort of rumbly instrument that sounds like a cross between screechy guitar feedback noises and a didgeridoo. Soon enough, of course, they start playing a loud and ugly song! But it's a good song—one of my favorites here—particularly for those highly textured and quieter moments where it sounds like Picciotto was screaming into a canyon and listening to himself echo. It's that kind of invention that's keeping Fugazi an enjoyable band for me.
Count this as another Fugazi song with a good bassline. That thing slowly creeping upwards is … creepy. This isn't as quick and raucous as the other songs, which is kind of a relief, but of course you can expect MacKaye to continue giving tortured, screaming performances, and when the lead guitar comes in, it's playing thick noise. Of course the noise makes it seem even more tortuous. And I still think they handle their fuzz better than Neil Young did. They control it better and use it strategically, just enough to make the atmosphere awesome, and then ending it before it gets irritating.
Last Chance For a Slow Dance B+
This is almost a real song with a melody and chorus... Naturally, this being Fugazi, it's quite ugly and hellish. It's also rather slow moving, and I suppose for that reason it doesn't generate all the pure energy that had me captivated in previous songs. The riff isn't very catchy and it sort of seems like it's dragged on for too long. I don't find this to be that difficult to listen to, particularly after just sitting through this entire album, but it seems like a relatively lackluster conclusion.
Red Medicine (1995)
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Do You Like Me A-
This song starts out sounding like REALLY FUZZY Led Zeppelin with a lot of clunky drums cluttering around, which scares me for a moment, because I get worried that this entire album is going to be filled with that sort of barely coherent rock 'n' roll music, but quickly enough, some tight riffage comes in and Guy Picciotto does his style of John-Lydon-ish scream singing. It's more or less a straightforward song with a good riff but not an extremely memorable one. The guitars are rapid and keep the pace danceable. The atmosphere doesn't strike me nearly as dark as most of them did in the previous album.
Bed for the Scraping A+
Freaking awesome. This song has at least three things going for it. One: Bass line. It's not only danceable, but it's freaking catchy. Two: the singing. Ian MacKaye does his loud scream-singing, and it's probably one of his best performances. Three: the lead guitars. They're screechy, but not to such a level that I find it earsplitting or inaccessible, and they're also playing some very catchy, and rhythmic lines. Naturally, they keep the intense energy and danceableness going from the previous song, except they combined it with several levels of catchiness.
Latest Disgrace A
I like the sound effects at the beginning of this! It sounds like a rapidly ticking clock with a squeaky rubbery instrument, and I can hear some chimey instrument. And you know what else? This is another song with some really good bass!! It's sort of dark and sinister. That meshes well with this entire song, which starts out slow before it slowly gathers momentum for a bigger finish. I'm not even sure I would classify this as ugly music, because this seems so appealing to me. The dark guitars are rather textured and even quite playful despite playing some sinister tones. The singing continues to be phenomenal. Scream-singing, yes, but also playful.
Birthday Pony B
The beginning of this song features somebody lumbering around two notes on a piano, some cluttery hits from the drums, and somebody cheering through some sort of muffled voice processor. This weird experimentalism is hardly groundbreaking, but it's sort of fun. After that a more normal song comes in, but it unfortunately doesn't quite possess, at least, the danceable quality of the previous songs. The riff is clunky and not too interesting. The melody doesn't interest me too much. It's still brimming with dark energy, but I'm not quite connecting with it.
Forensic Science B+
Quite good, but not something that catches fire too readily for me. The guitars play a mid-tempo groove heavily while MacKaye sings over it in a boisterous manner. They create nice textures with it, but they don't offer much in terms of any real atmosphere. Also, the vocals don't really capture a foothold on a melody to speak of, and the riff isn't interesting either. It makes an OK listen though. Hardly boring, and its diversity helps it out.
Combination Lock A-
This is a three-minute instrumental (apart from some weird talking I hear at one point)! It's not too exciting, especially at the beginning, which is a drum solo! However, it sounds like they were having a little bit of fun grooving together in the studio, and I rather enjoy hearing them do this. The lead guitar, bass, and drums all mesh together like clockwork, and you can get a load of that for yourself, unhindered by all the passionate singing. They don't offer anything interesting in terms of melody, but they're playing well together, and those high-pitched, squeaky guitars they bring up in the final third have an almost quirky ambiance to them.
Fell, Destroyed A-
If it weren't for that rickety sound effect, I might have had to force myself to pay attention to that. (Yes, the musical equivalent of shiny things attracts me so...) But more than that, this is one of their more compelling songs despite it being slowly paced and not having a terribly interesting melody. I especially like listening to these creepy guitars interact with a slow bass-line gives me the shivers. A few parts of this song seem like they could have flowed better into one another. The repeated moments in this song where they play two stiff guitar chords followed by a rapid drum beat don't inspire me too greatly.
By You A-
This starts out with some quiet but pretty acoustic guitar strumming that briefly makes me wonder if I had accidentally switched on a Genesis record. But then it launches into by far the album's noisiest song. Whewwwweee! Bring on the loud, distortion-heavy guitars! They had this sort of thing on their previous album, but it's more integrated into the background apart from a squeaky and distortion heavy solo in the second half. So it doesn't make that tough of a listen for me. Until the second half, which is … Yikes. Don't listen to this with headphones too loud. You're liable to get tinnitus.
I don't know, but this album seems to have entered some sort of weird experimental purgatory. I'm completely with everything here; at no point do I find anything uninteresting or unlistenable. But it's not really inspiring me, either. Certainly not in a way that I found Kate Bush's experimental The Dreaming to be inspiring. Nonetheless, I like that they're being quite playful with their experimentation. The groove is kept low key with a thuddy bass-line and drums with an echo effect put on them. A saxophone plays occasionally distressing, long-drawn out notes, but other times, it's just short notes. They help decorate this with some whooshy and whirly sound effects. ...It's great that they would try something like this. Not the most entertaining thing on the planet, but that's hardly a mortal sin.
Yay! They bring back the uber-catchy bass-lines and catchy riffs. Why wouldn't I be excited? Still not as intrinsically driving or quite as danceable as the songs that appeared at the beginning of the album, but this manages to pick up some dust. MacKaye's passionate scream-singing comes off quite well, and the lead guitars are sometimes bouncy, but other times they're louder and fuzzy. The interplay between these two modes help keep it especially entertaining to me.
Back to Base A-
The loudest and most boisterous song this album has seen in awhile (and that's not “By You,” which was just loud). Perhaps this was a return to their old hardcore punk days a decade before this album? It's a brief song (less than two minutes) that's nothing but a lot of heavy, fuzz guitar and MacKaye screaming his head off! There's kind of a cool, more downbeat interlude in the middle, which shows that this band were even inventive when they simply wanted to revisit their old days! I even hear some of that screechy out-of-tune saxophone (or whatever) left over from “Version” surface briefly.
Downed City A-
Well now I have this hardcore punk thing stuck in my brain. I would also be tempted to call this a more or less straightforward return to their pre-Fugazi days. This song, once again, consists of nothing more than MacKaye scream-singing to a heavy but tight and quick fuzz-riff. It contains a lot of energy. That brassy riff is somewhat unsettling, although that's not so much a criticism, because we want Fugazi to be unsettling!
Long Distance Runner A
ALRIGHT!! They saved one of the best for last! Longtime Fugazi fans who have these albums memorized probably know what I'm about to say (and are probably shaking their heads in contempt at my reviews, because the first time I heard this album was … yesterday). This song has another one of their great bass-lines! That low, rumbly bass-line is creepy and it's fantastic. And the screechy lead guitars combine well with it even though they seem a bit stuck playing long-drawn-out, scratchy chords. MacKaye's characteristically screaming vocals sing a melody, which is always a good thing. The ending is rather anticlimactic, though, and more or less just seems to wallow in a despondent groove.
End Hits (1998)
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Fugazi start the party with this two minute song that consists primarily of some rapidly played guitar notes and drumming, which seems almost disconnected from it. I even hear what sounds like a three-year-old jabbing a few notes at a piano in a few spots. MacKaye starts to sing very sloppily midway through, like he's one of The Shaggs. I guess sloppy was the whole point of this album. There's actually quite a lot going on for two minutes, and I find myself enjoying it even though I can't say I'm completely “with it.” (I guess for me to be “with it,” it would have to be an Olivia Newton-John album or something...)
Place Position A+
Alright, here's where the sloppiness can start to get exciting. They sound like they're playing in their garages with no pants on so that nothing can constrict them from rocking their asses off. The rapidly placed guitars and thunderous drums are completely vicious and, at the same time, never getting too jumbled. The scream-singing from Piccioto is appropriately wild. There's a point in the middle where everything stops. Usually I hate that sort of thing. I hated it from this very band before. But here, it doesn't. (All I can say is that it doesn't make my skin crawl to hear silence, and that must mean it's a successful song!) Like the previous song, there's so much going on in this song that I feel that I can listen to it a dozen times and pick up new things. In the final third, for example, things suddenly quiet down and get really creepy for awhile. Nicely done, this one. It all seems sloppy, but somehow also intricate.
Recap Modotti A+
If I were to have any sort of musical talent and I could form any rock 'n' roll band, I would be a bassist. And no, that's not because I have a low self-image, because bass guitar rules. Joe Lally would be my mentor. (And maybe Jah Wobble can give me some guest lectures.) Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the return of those walking bass-lines that I loved so much from 13 Songs and Repeater. Really, why can't I just hear an album full of these bass lines? Who the hell needs singing? There isn't much singing in here. The bass guitar is the star. There's a subdued rhythm, which compliments the bassline perfectly. The non-rhythm-section members of the band provide a little bit of minimal electric guitar noodles for some atmosphere, and it never steals the show from the bass.
No Surprise A
This is interesting... They use guitars that I would almost describe as jangly. It's almost beautiful, except there's still a darkened, doom-ridden nerve at its center that it can't break from. The jangly riff seems troubled somehow, and the dark and pounding bass drags it down even further. Hell seems to break loose for the chorus, where some rip-roaring distorted guitar makes an appearance MacKaye sings with some evil reverb. Pretty much a whole new song starts at the 2:50 mark with a mid-tempo groove and a rather lovely guitar line. But of course it isn't long before the fuzz guitar comes back up and drags it back into its dingy evilness. This is a mid-tempo song, which a lot of listeners take issue with, but as long as they come up with these atmospheres, I'm completely with them.
Five Corporations A
They pick up the pace here for a more “typical” Fugazi moment... since of course they were masters at such energetic music with very loud and passionate scream-singing vocals. This is the sixth Fugazi album that I'm reviewing (including 13 Songs), and I continue to insist that I usually don't like fast-paced and intentionally ugly music. Maybe I shouldn't insist that anymore? ...But then again, I only listen to pop or folk music in my free time, because these sorts of songs mess with my mojo! I must be at peace. But if I felt like smashing something with a brick, then this is perfect. The guitar is loud and fast-paced. The scream-singing is so convincing that it makes me want to scream-sing with it. I can feel the tight drumming trying to work its way into my chest. And most importantly, they very subtly but flawlessly change their guitar textures, atmospheres and melodies throughout this song while of course always keeping the pacing... It's impossible to tell where it's going, but it never goes anywhere I don't want it to.
Caustic Acrostic A
Even more wily than the previous song, this is another classic sounding Fugazi song that should please their long-term fans. You know what it sounds like. The guitars are fuzzy and quickly paced, the drums are tighter than ever, and the scream-singing continues to sound riveting. The textures of it seem to change at lightning-pace, and it's all executed flawlessly. It's more of that wowness.
Closed Captioned A-
They're getting more slowly paced here, but this still comes across as terribly intense in spots. My main complaint is that this seemed like a perfect place for some AWESOME BASS GUITAR because this is one of those creepily paced songs that screams for more of that. There's a nice, sliding line he plays, but it's not nearly enough. In fact, there's a slowly paced drum solo at the end. Slowly paced drum solos are empty, so why not give it some tone with some bass guitar? Ah well... I guess it'll have to remain a mystery. Everything up to the drum solo is, once again, very finely put together. (People accuse this of being sloppy... but real sloppiness is a song that just has one riff that repeats over and over again... Their textures are never static...)
Floating Boy B
The bass guitar is back, but why am I not excited about it? It doesn't play for the entire song, but when it does, I don't get that familiar old feeling that I love hearing the bass guitar. ...This is also a very odd track that sort of seems to go all over the place, and for the first time in this album, I'm not terribly thrilled about where they take it sometimes. At least it evolves, though. It seems sloppy at the surface, but as I said in the previous track, a sloppy song is one that just plays the same stupid riff over and over. They get into a cool, clunky groove at the end when it starts to pick up some steam again. The last thirty seconds is a pretty cool, very heavy wall-of-sound thing they create with some electric guitars. They're just screwing around!
Foreman's Dog A
Ah yes, they're getting back to it, thankfully. This song takes a little while for it to take off with a very stiff guitar riff, but as soon as the other instruments get into the action, they create quite a well-oiled groove. The pace once again is mid-tempo, but you've got to appreciate that I get a chance to focus on the groove. ...Or maybe people just like ass-kicking fastness in music? Well each onto his own. The guitars are very heavy at least, and the drumming continues to come off as apocalyptic to me. I even find that vocal melody kinda catchy, which is weird.
I was playing with a computerized arpeggio maker, and it created something that sounded kind of similar to this. I'm wondering if they did the same thing, except translated it with their guitars. Anyway, it's fun hearing their guitars scale about like that in a way that I don't think any bands like this have ever done before. For effect, they bring in some very fuzzy guitar to give it a seedy atmosphere. Once again, unusual and enjoyable... which is amazing, since I don't like this kind of music.
Guilford Fall B+
Still good, but it doesn't quite get my heart going like most of the other songs. I can't explain why. It's just what I feel. The dark riff is rather catchy, and I like their dark atmosphere. Things get a bit creepy in the final third where they talk along with some heavy fuzz guitar. ...I haven't much else to say about this, which is another reason I suppose I'm giving it a B+. If you've made it this far into the album, you'll probably like it, but it doesn't stick out at me.
Pink Frosty A-
Now this is interesting, although I'm not too sure I “like” it. Of course I like it enough to think it deserves an A-, but within the context of the album? It's a weird one, even by Fugazi's standards. It's quiet, subdued and creepy. The guitar plays a slow and detached riff. The drum beat is quiet and in the background. Louder than the drums, we hear crashes of random percussion instruments, like chimes, gongs, and cymbals. Somebody is singing under his breath, but it's almost easy to tone that out. This is a very strange one, and I can at least claim I never heard anything like it. It seems like it should be more expressive or give me some imagery, though.
The two letters I fear the most as a college student... Anyway, they end the album with an odd thing. For about thirty seconds, they play a fast and dirty rock 'n' roll song, except the volume is turned down. Then some loud and distorted guitars come in with some apocalyptic screaming. It doesn't take that long for it to stop, and we're left with total silence. I guess they want to see if they can trick some people into turning off the album before it's over. ...But if you hang around, there's a little bit of studio chatter while they were apparently practicing how to play a very strange, sliding chord.
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Pink Frosty (demo) B+
Less creepy than the original for sure! Still good of course, even if it's just for reference only, and certainly different. It's nice to be able to hear that interesting guitar groove more clearly without any singing or reverb-heavy sounds to distract us. I'm not head-over-heels in love with it or anything and it's a bit underwhelming. But I guess the fact that it's a “demo” is a good excuse for it not to be terribly exciting. ...But anyway, I love those guitars.
Lusty Scripps A
According to good old Wikipedia, pretty much every song here had been previously recorded but so far unreleased. ...You mean they had this awesome bass-line under their belt the whole time?!?! Joe Lally and I go way back (in my mind), and we all know that whenever he comes up with an awesome bass-line, he can repeat it over and over again for infinity, and I'll never get sick of it. This is another one. But of course they don't just leave it with a bare bass-line! No, there are contributions from evolving fuzz guitars (that at some point are hypnotizing like wind-chimes), some great drumming, and this really weird out-of-tune clarinet thing blaring out out-of-tune. ...Hell yes. And there's no singing? I almost forgot to mention that! That's fine by me! It just goes to show how great these guys were at INSTRUMENTS.
Arpeggiator (demo) B+
Oh, this song again! It's the one that sounds like they were playing around with a computer program that creates scales based on algorithms. It's not at all better than the original version, if that's only because the drums seem to be a bit too obtrusive. However, the guitars themselves are still playing that hypnotizing pattern.
Hm... This is why some of Fugazi's ardent fans tell me they never listen to this album. This sounds like they were just dicking around in the studio. It probably could have turned into an interesting Fugazi song if they developed at all. It's a tame guitar pattern, which is nonetheless somewhat interesting. Almost like Baroque music if they were in the habit of using amplified guitars and drums. ...It's half-baked, but we know that's how this entire album is, right?
Like the previous track, this instrumental is mildly interesting and given a little more elbow grease it could have turned into another classic Fugazi song. But as it stands, it's nothing too engaging. The guitar textures are quite nice, and I really like that shuffly and somewhat disjointed drum rhythm. At least these guys were good instrumentalists!
Turkish Disco A
I bet you 1,000,000 that Turkish nightclubs in the late '70s and early '80s sounded nothing like this. This ain't no trashy Euro-pop! THIS IS ANOTHER AWESOME BASS-GUITAR SONG! Joe Lally comes up with one of his bass patterns that mesmerizes the hell out of me. The two lead guitars also play some interesting patterns giving the whole thing texture. ...Let's just let that bass guitar go on forever... (NO! DON'T FADE OUT!!!)
Me and Thumbelina B
The album's first singing track! Someone sings in a comically deep voice for 45 seconds about Thumbelina going to the video store amidst a strangely disjointed drum line. ...Thanks for that...
Floating Boy (demo) B
BASS! This is the demo version of another song that appeared on End Hits. I thought it was boring there, and I suppose I find it boring here also. Unlike “Turkish Disco,” it doesn't give me much in terms of interesting textures. Rather the bass just plods along at a sleepy pace while the lead guitars play some long-drawn-out, distorted notes. The drummer goes to down with his cymbals, also helping create this unusual wave of sound.
The Zelda song!! ...OK, not really, but that would be cool. (I guess I could have also lied and said this was the wiener song?) This is a brief instrumental that doesn't particularly pop out at me. It has some bass in it, but nothing that excites me too terribly. It's a fairly forgettable thing with guitar and drums. ...Is that a good enough description? It's so forgettable, I'm not even going to score it.
Little Debbie A
For all intents and purposes, this is the first REAL Fugazi song on this record, because it has singing, and it's not the goofy kind of singing that they gave us on “Me and Thumbelina,” either. It's Ian MacKaye's passionate scream singing. It doesn't even last two minutes, but it's a pretty good song. The riffs are tight and memorable, and it's fun to listen to. What more could you want?
So I came to the conclusion recently that “A Horse With No Name” by America is a pretty good song. I used to think it sucked. Could my taste in music be degrading, or am I just more open to things that I didn't used to be? Not that that has anything to do with this Fugazi song... This is an instrumental that just consists of someone noodling around with a VERRYY deep fuzz guitar for awhile. I was briefly reminded of Neil Young's Dead Man, but then I remember that I should try not to drive myself crazy by remembering that album. ...At least Fugazi were kind enough to lay off it after only one minute and twenty seconds. For that, I should award this a Don Ignacio certified A+++++.
I'm So Tired A-
Fugazi's one and only piano ballad!!! ...Shouldn't I be more excited about that?... Well, I guess this isn't the sort of piano ballad that Elton John would come out with. It sounds exactly like the title makes it sound. Sleepy piano, sleepy singer. The piano plays basic chords and a basic rhythm. Nothing fancy or frilly at all. The melody is quite good, though.
Rend It (Demo) B
I know this song isn't too interesting, because I'm imagining Michael Jackson singing over it... I read over my track review of the original song from In On the Kill Taker, because I don't remember it at all! I reported hearing a good bass-line... and I don't hear it at all in this demo. ...This sounds dreary, like the singer overdosed on Benadryl or something, and the guitars match. However, its strange atmosphere is at least interesting. There's some weird clunky thing going on with the drums... like he was picking through a recycle bin and being rhythmic about it.
Closed Captioned (demo) B-
If you fell asleep after “Rend It,” you can probably keep snoozing here... This is another very slowly paced and hazy song that's easy to space out to. It's nearly six minutes long, so you'll get a lot of daydreaming in, particularly when you get to that drum solo in the latter half, which isn't interesting to me at all. But at least they brought out the guitars, which play some very cool patterns right at the beginning. I remember liking these patterns from End Hits, and you get to hear them more clearly here.
Guilford Fall (demo) B
This is much more guitar heavy than the previous track (and no more 32-hour drum solos!), but I can't report that it interests me much at all. I'm still snoozing. The guitars are always nice to listen to, but the riffs aren't among their better ones. I didn't even like this so much on End Hits, so... whatever.
I had a swingset once! It was in a large sand box. It was so awesome. Anyway, this is another instrumental from these guys, and it's quite good. Dark, dirty, gritty. Not too violent, but that's just because nobody's singing with it. The riff is pretty good.
Should I score this? It's just a minute. I like that the bassist starts this playing that very overused surf riff, but in the middle, he completely stops and I hear some people yelling in the background. ...Weird.
Slo Crostic B+
Well they aren't much for letting this album go out with a BANG, are they? But at least this instrumental has its interesting points. The drummer plays a very stiff rhythm, and the guitarists let themselves layer on top of it. Surely not the most revolutionary thing they've ever done, but it's piques my interest well enough.
The Argument (2001)
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Greetings from outer space! The first track of this Fugazi record is about a minute's worth of space-ship noises. I hear distorted bits of people talking in the background, some whispery synthesizers, and some long-drawn-out cello notes. ...It's not much in terms of a *song*, but it sets the tone quite well.
Could I possibly give a song like this anything less than an A+? (The answer you're looking for is no.) This song has pretty much everything going for it. It starts out with a subdued but complicated drum rhythm that dazzles my ears like pot dazzles the eyes of a pothead, and the guitarists come in with a texture that's almost jangly... Well, it's hypnotizing anyway. Ian MacKaye sings a somewhat droning melody, but it interests me and fits the texture they created with their guitars. Finally, about midway through, there's an upwelling of slightly distorted electric guitars and MacKaye starts to scream-sing like he's most famous for. ...Anyway, this is a cool song.
Full Disclosure A+
Holy crap! That texture! At one point, it sounds like one of the extremely involved guitars sounds like it's playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” I mean, you have to be some kind of guitarist to play something so complicated that quickly. Joe Lally comes up with a fast-paced, rumbly bass guitar line that gets my heart pumpin' and that extremely tight drum rhythm is similarly awesome. Guy Picciotto takes lead vocals this time, and he's completely screaming through it. ...I also like hearing those “oooooo” back-up vocals in the chorus. That's a bit poppish for them, don't you think? ...Oh wait, I like pop music. And that ending. How are they making all these high-pitched siren sounds? It's like listening to the apocalypse. There's so much to this song, and it makes an amazing listen.
Epic Problem A
Well... This is certainly more along the lines of what I'd expect most from an Ian MacKaye song. In other words, it's completely intense, and he screams it more than he sings it. I really like those moments at the very beginning when MacKaye yells “STOP!” and the guitars respond by playing some freaky, bending notes. As always, I like hearing him scream since he comes across as passionate. Instrumentally, this is more straightforward than the previous two, but that doesn't matter; they're just taking the opportunity to rock out. The guitars are heavy and tight, the drums are menacing, and so is the bass. In the final third, the intense music stops and they briefly start to sing a quiet acoustic song... which sounds like it could have been turned into a They Might Be Giants song, or something...
Life and Limb A-
Here's an odd tune. It starts out with a bare and heavy drum rhythm (that for some reason I always think is going to play a surf-pop tune). Picciotto comes in with a melody that's droning, similar in style to “Cashout,” and I hear a repetitive though dazzling jangly guitar pattern. Soon, the “chorus” of sorts pops up, and a very deep bass starts to rumble around, and I hear a back-up singer. ...This is an interesting song, and quite uncharacteristic of them. As far as creating artful textures, they did a pretty good job of it, but I'm not particularly *into this* enough to want to give it a rating higher than an A. ...Er was that a handclap I heard at 2:04 minute mark?!?!?! It comes up again at the very end. Hahah! No wonder some people say that Fugazi were betraying their style!
The Kill A+
Once again, this is not a characteristic album for them. I don't remember their albums being as subdued and texturally complex as this! ...Well, I like it! It's not ugly, it's not difficult for me to get into, and the droning melodies they're always seeming to come up with are for some reason extremely interesting to me, especially when they somehow know the perfect thing was to introduce back-up singers for the thrice-repeated line “I'm not a citizen.” The texture they come up with here is characterized by guitars that always seem to be gently wobbling. ...Really, it's quite amazing. Lally's bass rhythm wins another prize for being jumpy and complicated, providing yet another thing that my ear wants to pay attention to. Brendan Canty's drumming pattern is similarly subdued and creepy, which of course provides the base of that alluring texture.
I'm always amused to hear a piano in a Fugazi song! …Although I'm pretty sure the only other time I've heard it was in Instrument. It only pops up at the very beginning of this, setting off an artsy and somewhat ominous tone for this surprisingly low-key and despondent song. I like hearing those loose guitar textures, and the lazy-voiced melody sung by Picciotto. It does eventually pick up with heavier electric guitars and a heavier drum beat. ...This is a bit long, the longest song of the album, and I'm not completely with it the entire way. ...But I enjoy hearing it evolve enough to give it that A-. That weird string tone around the four-and-a-half minute mark is ugly and also a bit too long-drawn-out in itself, but it does pique my interest. It's like a huge fog horn that's playing chords.
Oh, here is Fugazi's much appreciated tribute to Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh. (...Did I fool anybody? ...Not even a little bit?) This is a detached and kind of bouncy song. I continue to be quite surprised to hear these guys write songs that are playful without being intense like they used to write in their younger days. It's kind of a quirky groove with a walking bass line and a couple lead guitars doing a wobbly call-and-response thing. But I don't really think this song really takes off until the “chorus” where the walls of guitar comes in, and we hear these catchy back-up vocals repeatedly come in with “Your secret's out.” Also those very quiet calls of “Thank you sir, may I have another” at the very end are pretty catchy... Of course the whole song is complex and entertaining enough for me to give it that A-. ...But an A- in this album of course means I have something to nitpick about!!
I'd imagine this is one that most of their long-time fans would like more than almost anything. Why? Because the guitars are loud, they're playing quickly and intensely, and MacKaye scream-sings through it just as well as always has. The melody is pretty catchy, too. There's a bit in the middle where they tone it down and play a tight, arpeggiating guitar texture. But other than that, it's a wall of guitar sound just as usual.
This one's actually a bit spooky to me. The guitars adopt a very dark tone to them, and Picciotto sounds a bit spooky in his whispery, wabbly vocals. The dark guitar plays a very catchy riff, anyway, the sort of riff that I can get stuck in my head for awhile. Midway though, they start to play this wildly scaling pattern that's making my head spin. Once again, they must've been able to play their guitars fast to achieve some of these complicated patterns. (...Did I just hear another handclap???? …..There it is AGAIN!!! ….Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this review is written in real time. You can say I'm pioneering the art.)
I hear the same distorted talking noises that the album opened with here, so I guess they wanted to bring it to full circle or something! After that plays for about 40 seconds, another one of their subdued guitar grooves pipes up, and it's yet another mesmerizing thing to listen to. MacKaye sings in a quiet and subdued manner, and … well, I'll tell you... I find it quite nice not to have spent an entire album with him screaming in my ear the whole time. I mean, not that he could scream like a banshee who could stay on key... I suppose my complaint about this song is that it actually bores me a bit. I might have expected a wall of guitar sound to come in and lift it up for the chorus, but it comes a bit late at the three-and-a-half minute mark. Although it was kind of cool, once it did come. They sing “Here comes the argument” and MacKaye finally gets his scream on... very briefly... ...So, guys. I guess this is it... The FINAL Fugazi song. ...Unless they reunionize. ...Ah, they're still young, right? ...Well, younger than The Rolling Stones.
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