Sound — 8
This was Fugazi's first full-length album (many believe that the earlier '13 Songs' was their first, but it was really their first two EPs combined) and probably their most raw, punk sounding album, drastically different to their later releases such as 'The Argument'. The album begins with 'Turnover', a powerful opener with shouted vocals and what to me makes the album shine, the sheer power of the drums. Not very complicated drums, but sounds far better than a band like Green Day could cough up. The combination of loud and soft will never go stale, as this one proves. The next number, 'Repeater' is one of my favorites from the album. Once again the drums have simplicity, but a hell of a lot of power. And the guitars are probably to promote the record label of vocalist/guitarist Ian Mackaye, 'Dischord'. It sums up the guitars that word. However, they're not clashing in a bad way. Hell no. It's the energy. What makes punk, punk. Next the first instrumental of the album, named after the drummer of the band, Brendan Canty It's nothing too special, but it works well. Generic Fugazi guitars and more of those powerful drums. The next song 'Merchandise' deceives you at first listen. The verse I must admit is definitely not the best I have heard, but it has one hell of a chorus. In my opinion it is the perfect punk chorus, and sounds like a chorus that has inspired the next generation of punk music, such as The Offspring, and many more. Having said all that the chorus is the only thing that makes me like it. 'Blueprint' slows things down a bit, with melancholy guitars, but then breaks out into something that's the same, only heavier. This song is the most disappointing song so far on the album, but definitely not something unlistenable. After a slight disappointment with 'Blueprint', 'Sieve-Fisted Find' saves the day. It comes in with what a Fugazi fan would want to hear after the last song. Discordant, powerful guitars, even more powerful drums and great, powerful vocals. I should probably mention the bass now, as I have neglected it a bit. It's not just the standard punk, bottom-note-of-a-power sort of thing, it actually has a mind of it's own, and the guitars don't control it. Also the contrast between Guy Piccoto's voice and Ian Mackaye's voice is just perfect. Guy's softer but biting voice is great on it's own but when you combine it with Ian's rowdy, more punk voice, it's like heaven for your ears. Next 'Greed' is pretty much typical of the album, quite impressive, but nothing special compared to the likes of 'Turnover', 'Repeater' and 'Sieve-Fisted Find'. 'Two Beats Off' isn't too impressive. It sounds a bit like 'Blueprint' on drugs. In a bad way of course. Nothing much else to say about it really. 'Styrofoam' was the first ever song I heard Fugazi play, and like 'Sieve Fisted Find' tries to take your mind off the disappointment of the last song. It does a pretty good job of it as well. Crazy guitars come back, Ian Mackaye's great punk vocals, and a great chorus. Now the album has gone a bit hit-or-miss. There's one good song, then there's a crap one. 'Reprovisional' is my least favorite of the album. There's nothing really that excites me about this song, unlike most of the other ones on the record. It sounds like they have run out of ideas or something. Not too good. Yep, you guessed it, the light at the end of the tunnel; this song is a good one. It opens with classic Fugazi guitars, but then goes into this sort of dream with octaves and harmonics being played. Really relaxing. Just as it lulls you into a false sense of security, it opens back up again into this blissful torrent of noise. Then the words She's not breathing, she's not moving, she's not coming back. She's dead to cut a long story short. The song gets the best of Fugazi and puts into one. The guitars, the bass, the drums, the loud soft dynamics. It's like a breath of fresh air after coming out of public toilets. Ian Mackaye's softer voice isn't too bad either. Great song. So if you have 'Repeater', we're done. However if you have 'Repeater + 3 Songs, the party's not over yet. The '3 Songs' part is actually just one of their EPs called, '3 Songs' obviously. Song #1 is a brilliant song. It takes the discordant guitar bits of the guitar out, but it still sounds excellent. The drums again deliver the power, along with Ian's voice. You can't really go wrong with anti-establishment lyrics like these ones. Once again the mix of Ian and Guy's voices are a match that is nothing less than perfect. 'Joe #1' is another instrumental, this time named after the band's bassist Joe Lally (also of Ataxia). This one makes use of the very bottom notes of a piano, which is quite refreshing after hearing only guitars, bass, drums and vocals for the last half hour. The drums needless to say are perfect and the bass as well bringing the groove down at the low end. 'Break-In' ends the album in true Fugazi style. It's a 1:32 punk blaster with everything the album has offered. Except the softer side.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics aren't the typical bog-standard anti-establishment lyrics that some bands throw out these days just to make sure they are considered punk. You can tell from their voices how true these lyrics are. 'Merchandise' in particular has a go at businessmen saying What could a businessman ever want more, than to have another sucker in his store. They sure sound a bit better than all the 'screw the president' crap that is getting overdone at the moment. They haven't compromised the music to have better lyrics, but they certainly haven't compromised the lyrics to have better music either.
Overall Impression — 8
This is a must for any Fugazi fans. In fact this is a must for any punk fan. It's definitely not a perfect album, but it's got some outstanding songs that more than make up for it. I like the fact that they have songs that are just loud and are great songs, but when they mix that loud factor with softer parts, like in 'Turnover' and 'Shut The Door', it is something special. This album proves that you can bash the hell out of your guitar and it will sound better than most things that you can listen to. The secret of their sound on this album in my opinion is big, clashing guitars, melodic, groovy bass, powerful drums and ear-shattering vocals. It should not be forgotten.