Everyone kinda thinks Minor Threat and Rites of Spring are the two ingredients that Ian and Guy shook together like a shake weight and formed Fugazi out of, like a DC punk rock Golem. Not that Golem, JK Rowling stole that from the Kabbalistic ramblings of that Pi movie.
Don’t buy this album if you are not a fan of Minor Threat, Black Flag and Naked Ray Gun. Technically this and the first Rites of Spring album are the beginning of Emo, but not the really dumb horrible emo you thinking about. It just meant emotionally based punk rock, with a range of expression, rather than just angry bang bang bang. Later it was coopted by kid with skinny jeans, very straight dyed black hair and bands with the emotional range of a white velcro shoe. Screw that music, and all of it’s tropes. Drink right from the source.
I’m gunna add in Joy Division to the mix here. The guitars have a kind of phaser sound on them, and the drums are really up close and claustrophobic. The lyrics are often pretty Ian Curtis, which makes sense because Ian Curtis and Ian MacKaye both have the same first name. The dub intro to Spoke, super Joy Division. Less raincoats, but even Ian’s guitar is right outta the factory play book. In a good way. If you like early JD, you will like this album.
This album is good, on it’s own merits, but it’s a must have for Fugazi completists. If you are not a Fugazi completist, as Ian sings on the Embrace record: What a waste of life.
(Summer 1985 - Spring 1986)
Ian MacKaye - vocals
Ivor Hanson - drums
Michael Hampton - guitar
Chris Bald - bass
If you like the Au Pairs, or early Gang of Four / Wire, good crisp post punk, you’ll like Slant 6. They’re tight, danceable in that sorta I’m being slightly electrocuted kinda way. People wanna lump this in with Riot Grrrl stuff, but this is more clever, fun, and just better than most Riot Grrrl stuff, discounting Sleater Kinney of course. Unfortunately, like many Dischord bands, the first album was the peak. Ian MacKaye produced it, of course.
Fugazi Red Medicine
I first bought this record in a walk up, 200 square foot record shop, shortly before I drove my mini van up a one way street the wrong way, freaked out and jumped a huge curb to get outta the way of oncoming traffic. My dad wondered why the van always needed new struts. Dad, now you know. Probably not, he never reads this drivel.
I bought it in LP form, like this here LP. Don’t call it vinyl, or vinyls, what you, a millennial? It’s a record, or a 33, or an LP. It’s made of Vinyl, as opposed to shellac, which is what 78’s where made of. Yes, I bought it based on the album cover, but also based on the record store guy’s gushing review of it.
True fact: when I was a kid, my family couldn’t afford a CD player, so I didn’t get one till 1997 or 1998, about 100 years after everyone else in the world had one. And when I did get one, I could only afford 2 CDs: Toto IV and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which sucks to write out even if you are abbreviating Sgt. I learned something important when I got those CD’s. I had them on record as well. Guess what? The records sounded better. Richer, fuller, like the peaks and valleys of the sound were not cut off. Wanna know why Analog is called Analog? Because it is. Moving on. The best way to listen to music is with a record player with two large paper speakers, ideally with tweeters and wolfers. 12-15” is the ideal size. You see, sound should be physical. When you sit in front of a big speaker, it pushes air out. You literally feel it. You do NOT feel sound with a Bose whatever, or 4” plastic wolfers. I discovered all of this at the tender age of 16 or whatever, when I put on that Toto IV CD (remastered! To sound like it was recorded in a shoe box with an endless series of digital compressors!) and sat in front of the CD player expecting to hear God speak to me, and instead I was crestfallen. Like Neil Young when he stopped smoking weed and was forced to listen the last 10 albums he's made. Don’t believe the hype. Plastic speaker cones are crap. Do you think guitar amps use plastic? No, that shit is paper. It’s a natural material. It sounds natural. I’ll give plastic an occasional pass: Ornette Coleman’s sax was plastic, and it sounds great. But he wanted that sorta off putting honky sound, and of course he’d pawned his brass horn and couldn’t afford a new one… so make due with whatcha got and roll with it.
The other thing: get yourself a pre-microchip receiver. They’re around for under 150 bucks, and they sound great compared to some 1990’s digital garbage. And those counterweighted knobs. Mmm. Counterweighted. This is how you listen to music. Actually listen. Not background noise. If you want music to physically move you it needs to be a physical entity. Paper speakers. Big ass amp. Records.
Wait. This is a record review. I bought this album blindly, but later learned that Fugazi is one of the best bands of the last 30 years. Top 5. I’d say this isn’t the best place to get started, but right now it’s the only place I can start ya, cause the other stuff is on back order. It’s where I started, so just channel your 16 year old self and listen with open ears. This record changed my life. I started Discord Components because of this record.
Red Medicine is a bit more experimental (ok a lot more) than prior Fugazi outing. More post rock than post punk. There are short but sprawling echo-y outing, short furious punk, but mainly this is Fugazi transitioning to a more mature, tempered band. The trademark guitar interplay between Ian and Guy is still there, the crisp snare of Brendan, the lobbing dub base of Joe. It’s a wonderful, beautiful, angry, sad record. Cathartic, messy, brilliant. If this record was released today, it would still sound fresh and innovative. I’d say it’s one of the best records of the 90’s but that’s selling it short. It’s one of the best records of the past 30 years.
Nation of Ulysses: Plays Pretty For Baby
Alternatively stripped down post punk and highly dense claustrophobic noise rock with ripples of horn floating over loose guitar screeds, held together by that piccolo snare with the crotch mic that holds together so much music recorded for Dischord. What if Black Flag had Don Cherry guesting occasionally with a maniacal socialist preacher philosopher as a singer, Sonny Sherock as a guitarist, and Jah Wobble as a bass player. It’s sorta like that, yeah. A great blast of music. Ian Svenonius is a genius. Just look at him. Rock and roll as fuck:
Also, check out this live clip.
Produced of course by Ian Mackaye.
Hoover / The Lurid Transversal of Route 7
DC was it’s own mental / artistic space in 1994. Sure, people knew about Nirvana, and grunge, but Punk rock and post punk and (the real) emo were the central core of Washington in those days. Small stinky clubs, cheap all ages shows in churches. If you live in DC, you are full of angst, because you live so close to so much horrible tension. It’s akin to living on top of a pile of dynamite covered in honey, placed on a fire ant colony. It makes you itchy and mad. There’s no room for the drugs and depression of grunge. You have to make vendetta music.
Hoover, like all the records we sell, was a DC band on DC’s Dischord label, founded by Ian Mackaye and someone else whose name I forget. They never made it big, like all the bands on Dischord, but they put out one great record, and this is it: The Lurid Transversal of Route 7. It’s a raw wound of a record, but recorded in that super crisp way that Inner Ear studio was so good out. You can hear everything in the mix, and it all cuts deep like doing a slide tackle in a pile of of broken glass. There’s a bit of the dub drumming re: Fugazi, but these guys are more emotive, more raw. If there is a chill bit, it’s a warning, shit is about to get wild, in a tight, controlled, vicious way.
The only downside to getting this record is that you will want there to be a few good follow ups to it. There aren’t any. Sure they made one more album, but they couldn’t recapture this tension. This is it. A standalone artyfact.
Get this record if you know that all is not right in the world.
Hoover's first and only full-length album, released in 1994.