This week, Spark & Fizz co-founder Jared Andrews takes mixtape duties upon himself. Jared’s been on a steady diet of Fugazi albums for the past ten years, so he had no trouble whipping up this educational and soul-bearing doozie.
1. Fugazi – “Bad Mouth”
Thanks to my cooler older cousin, who introduced me to Brand New and a bunch of similarly angst-ridden bands, 2003 was the year I got really into emo.
I had exhausted the pile of CDs she gave me and I needed more. Living in the woods of Central Massachusetts, I couldn’t exactly go to shows to seek out new bands. Instead I took to the internet. As I searched for new emo, one band in particular kept popping up, the mysteriously named “Fugazi.” Some internet people referred to Fugazi as the “godfathers of emo,” others contended they weren’t emo at all. Clearly there was some controversy and I needed to find out for myself.
Months later I found myself at a far-off Newbury Comics with 15 bucks in my pocket and my Mom waiting in the car. I knew it would be my only chance to acquire new music for a while (this was right before I found out music was free on the internet and many years before being blessed with a high speed connection). Flipping through the stacks of CDs I came across a single copy of 13 Songs, Fugazi’s freshman release. The cover had no pictures.
The cryptic notes on the inside of the CD did little to prepare me for the music. “The Waiting Room,” Fugazi’s most well known song begins. Okay, this is cool. But it was when the third track, “Bad Mouth,” started that my musical life changed permanently. Sitting in the parking lot of a Chinese restaurant, with “Bad Mouth” playing, all music I had listened to up to that point became obsolete. I loved this. I needed more of this, whatever it was, and it definitely wasn’t emo.
2. Minor Threat – “Filler”
In my quest to find more of what Fugazi was playing I inevitably came across the the members’ previous projects. Minor Threat was the first I listened to, and like Fugazi they changed everything.
Every Sunday we would go to church. My family was religious, but I never would have described them as hardcore. The church we went to was definitely hardcore. One Sunday, a guest speaker with a neck so thick it’d put Henry Rollins to shame stood at the podium. He cleared his throat and explained that the last time he spoke to the church, some people found his sermon to be “inappropriate.” He disagreed, saying that what he needed to talk about was a matter of Heaven and Hell. He proceeded to educate us about the evils of masturbation and homosexuality for sixty agonizing minutes.
Hanging above the exit to the church was a sign that read “You are now entering the battlefield,” but I felt like I’d just left it. Slipping on my headphones all I wanted to hear was:
It’s in your head
You call it religion
You’re full of shit
3. Rites of Spring – “Hain’s Point”
Pre-Fugazi, drummer Brendan Canty and singer/guitarist Guy Picciotto played together in Rites of Spring, a band iconic in its own right. Hain’s Point is an artificial island in Washinton DC built up from the dredging of the Potomac River. When they wrote the song Hain’s Point was home to the massive statue the Awakening.
But it feels like…I’m falling through a hole in my heart
Just falling through a hole in my heart
Don’t try to reach for nothing at all
4. Pailhead – “Man Should Surrender”
Pailhead was a collaboration between Ian Mackaye and Ministrys’ Al Jourgenson. How this happened is a bit unclear, but happen it did. Pailhead recorded an EP between the disbandment of Ian’s band Embrace and the formation of Fugazi. Despite the eons of musical distance between Embrace and Ministry, the two musicians have chemistry that shines through in the industrial “Man Should Surrender.”
6. Fugazi – “KYEO”
Recorded at the height of the Gulf War, Fugazi’s second LP Steady Diet of Nothing features some of Fugazi’s most explicitly political songs. “KYEO”’s Gulf War imagery serves as a warning.
the troops are quiet tonight,
but it’s not alright,
because we know they’re planning something.
don’t you know things have settled down, down, down
but silence is a dangerous sound,
we must, we must,
we must keep our eyes open
7. Fugazi – “Cassavetes”
“Cassavetes” is one of my favorite Fugazi songs. Featuring a killer drum beat, satisfying guitar riff, and an enraged Guy Picciotto declaring independence:
if it’s not for sale you can’t buy it buy it
sad-eyed mogul reaching for your wallet
like hand to holster why don’t you try it try it
In On the Killtaker, is Fugazi’s third album. Killtaker was recorded twice, once with the legendary Steve Albini and again at Inner Ear Studios.
Fugazi and Albini were both dissatisfied with their version of Killtaker, which is why they rerecorded it. This didn’t stop the first recording of the album from reaching the internet.
In 2006 I was running an “mp3 blog,” which basically meant I posted mp3 tracks of bands I liked. I found an online community of people with similar hobbies and we shared music that we loved with each other. I stumbled across the Albini Killtaker tracks at some point and really wanted to show my internet friends, but figured I better ask first.
I ended up e-mailing Brendan of Fugazi. I sent him the URL of my shitty website and asked him if I could post an unauthorized copy of an album they never meant to go public.
Brendan actually responded! He requested that I do not share their secret demos, but complimented me on the website and encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing. He told me they never meant for the demos to be released and that they didn’t really like them.
That was a big fucking deal for me. And it still is in retrospect, considering what a ridiculous request I was making. Imagine if I had been a big Metallica fan and made the same request of Lars Ulrich. He might have fucking sued me!
Now years later, writing on a different music blog, I will continue to honor Brendan’s request. Just know that they’re out there and if you look hard enough, you can find the demos on your own. Here I have to disagree with Fugazi––those demos are sick!
8. Fugazi – “By You”
Off of Fugazi’s fourth album, Red Medicine, “By You” is the first song in the Fugazi catalog that features bassist Joe Lally on vocals. Much like his bass lines that provided a solid core to most of Fugazi’s songs, Joe delivers laidback vocals among a sea of noise that brings to mind a building crumbling.
Generation fuck you to define and redefine
You’d make them all the same but molds they break away
Safely inside looking outside go keep on picking at it it’s just going to get bigger
9. Fugazi – “Five Corporations”
Released in 1998, years before the term “1%er” entered the punk rock vernacular, “Five Corporations” decries the concentration of power, homogeneity and death of culture that can result when capitalism is spun out of control. Over a sped-up Bo-Diddley beat and waves of noisy guitars on the verge of collapse, Ian barks:
buy them up and shut them down then repeat in every town
every town will be the same
this one’s ours let’s take another five corporations
there is a pattern
10. Fugazi – “Little Debbie”
Fugazi’s 1999 album, Instrument, was primarily released to complement the Jem Cohen documentary of the same name. It features mostly demos and skeleton sketches of songs. A lot of these tracks found their way to proper Fugazi releases one way or another. Curiously “Little Debbie,” one of the most finished sounding tracks on the album, never did. Screaming in a voice more Minor Threat than Fugazi, Ian tells the story of little Debbie who’s Mom is apparently going crazy.
11. Fugazi – “Cashout”
Released in 2001, The Argument, introduces a new Fugazi. “Cashout” features additional percussion by longtime Fugazi roadie Jerry Busher, who is featured so frequently on The Argument that he may as well be Fugazi’s fifth member.
“Cashout” features Ian softly singing about the removal of longtime residents due to real estate development, a problem in D.C. and most major U.S. cities. I distinctly remember listening to “Cashout” during my sophomore year of high school while driving with a girl that I liked and her Mom. Detecting that this was not a typical rock song, her Mom asked me what it was all about. “Gentrification!” I responded, feeling smart as fuck.
Looking back at that moment, I mostly cringe. But truthfully, Fugazi lyrics exposed me to so many ideas that I never would have encountered in my hometown.
The Argument was Fugazi’s final release. After a year of touring, that featured two well documented shows at Boston’s Mass Art, the band went on “indefinite hiatus.” Whatever that means, it hasn’t stopped me from refreshing the “now touring” page on the Dischord records website thousands of times. Although Fugazi has never popped up, it didn’t take long for the members of Fugazi to appear in other projects.
12. Deathfix – “Hospital”
After touring for a number of years with the Replacements, Bob Mould’s band, Brendan and fellow Mould-alum Rich Morel formed Deathfix. Channeling early ’70s rock, Deathfix features Brendan on guitar and vocals. More personal than Fugazi songs, Brendan’s vocals call to mind Thurston Moore.
13. Joe Lally – “Why Should I get Used To It”
Bassist Joe Lally has released three post-Fugazi solo albums. Raw, minimalist and lofi, his solo efforts sound like a proto-Fugazi with a little bit of The Minutemen thrown in. Joe’s bass lines consistently held together the explosive guitars of Fugazi. But it wasn’t until hearing his solo releases that I realized just how fundamental he was to their sound.
14. The Evens – “All These Govenors”
It didn’t take long for Ian MacKaye to start something new either. Joining forces with drummer Amy Farina, Ian replaced his SG Standard with a baritone guitar, and The Evens were born.
The Evens made their debut with a music video for children’s television show Pancake Mountain. The song, “Vowel Movements,” features Ian and Amy singing together and explaining which letters are vowels.
This the only music video that Ian has ever appeared in.
Many Fugazi fans wondered if The Evens would exist solely in the realm of children’s TV shows. In 2005 they released a self-titled album which showed this was not the case. Ian is still pissed off and so is Amy. “All These Govenors” demonstrates that fully.