Archive for Fugazi

You Can Finally Get Your Deathfix, And Man, They Take It All The Way

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by johnbuckley100

We had February 19th circled on our calendar ever since Spin glommed “Transmission,” a magnificent early cut from the first Deathfix album, and streamed it on their site.  But even though we hit refresh on our iTunes about a dozen times last Tuesday, it only was released today.  Fortunately, those nice people at NPR let us stream the whole album all week, so we haven’t exactly been waitin’ for our man.  We may have set new records for streaming a single album, but we sure got our Deathfix, and as of today we finally have a renewable supply, and can take it to the limit.

And that’s the worry, for now that we have our own copy of Deathfix coursing through our headphones, we find the whole album is such a crystalline mound of glittering goodness, we could listen to it over and over until we emerge from the room —  if we were to emerge — looking like an R. Crumb character. It’s that good.

Much has been made of the opener, “Better Than Bad” sounding like a Big Star track.  Right era, but maybe the wrong band.  It seems built less on proto-power pop than on George Harrison’s “What Is Life.”  But placing the context from which Deathfix emerges is important, given how much the band confounds expectations.  With musicians who have roots in Fugazi, Bob Mould’s solo career, and D.C. secrets like The Mary Timony Band, who would have imagined there is a late ’60s/early ’70s prog sophistication at work here, that in a song like “Transmission” we can imagine Joe Boyd producing a Traffic session.  The musicians are virtuosi, even when you realize that singer/guitarist Brendan Canty isn’t playing the drums, which he did so magnificently for Fugazi, but instead has embarked on the same path as Chris Mars and Grant Hart and, yeah, Dave Grohl before him, going from behind the drum kit to the front of the stage.

It all works, as an incredibly catchy set of updated 10cc songs, as a staggeringly sophisticated first album made by adults who know their way around the studio, but haven’t lost a scintilla of wonder about just what can be accomplished with guitars, bass, drums, and keyboards.  This may seem far afield, but the only contemporary band that to us seems to be fishing with the same tackle is White Denim, and by that we mean a band that completely understands how uncool it is to play music with such a knowing understanding of pre-punk rock sophistication, and then they just go ahead’n’blow everyone away with the power of their songs, their incredible musicianship.  Resistance is futile.

Despite the dance club vibe of “Dali’s House,” this is a cerebral album, clever and beautiful (at times) without being emotional.  It sounds like it was made by a band as well-synced as The Soundtrack of Our Lives, but of course, they’ve only been playing together for a matter of months.  Our humble belief is that Deathfix could be the biggest band ever to emerge from D.C. — we mean commercially viable and huge — and wouldn’t that be ironic, given Brendan’s roots in Fugazi?  Richly deserved though, right, to have a nice guy finish first?  Whether or not we’re right — we’re usually not, when it comes to predicting who’s going to be huge — Deathfix has produced a first album that we pray is just the kickoff to many more.  You can start your 2013 Top 10 list scorecard now.  Maybe you can even put down your pen.

On “The Odds” The Evens Play Like Beatnik Shakers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 15, 2012 by johnbuckley100

The Odds, the third album that Ian Mackaye and Amy Farina have released as The Evens, is both tidy and intimate, thrilling on a small scale.  The Evens play like beatnik Shakers — every line plumb, no ornamentation, with a surface minimalism that is beautiful even as you sense the underlying passion.  It’s just Ian and Amy, he on guitar, she on drums, a self-contained unit so cozy you could see them recording The Odds in their living room, yet so quietly ferocious that, particularly on a song like “Wanted Criminals,” you easily could imagine Mackaye playing the song with his late, lamented band Fugazi.

D.C.’s own Fugazi was one of the strongest American acts from the late ’80s to their demise in 2003, but while most people remember them for the sheer ferocity of their playing, there was even then, in Mackaye’s songs, a small-weave precision amidst the ruckus.  Melody was the ingredient often missing, but in Mackaye’s and Farina’s songwriting, call-and-response vocals and the bare minimum instrumentation wouldn’t work nearly as well as they do if melody weren’t the glue holding it all together.  On this scale, Mackaye’s guitar work is especially fine, but the revelation here, to an extent we hadn’t realized listening to their two previous albums, is how fine a drummer Farina is.  “Wonder Why” sounds like a demo that Pete Townshend and Keith Moon might have cooked up before the Tommy sessions.  And it is clear from both her singing  — which often lands somewhere between Liz Phair circa Exile and Corin Tucker — and the way she pounds the drum kit, that Farina is Mackaye’s equal in every way.

With the anti-commercialism we’ve come to expect from Mackaye, The Odds was released Thanksgiving week, long after critics’ Top Ten lists have been compiled, and with tour support falling at a time of year when people are perhaps least inclined to go out in the evening to see a band.  But make no mistake, while we didn’t hear this in time to put it on Tulip Frenzy’s Top Ten List for 2012 ™, The Odds would have created a rethinking of the order.  And this is an album we look forward to playing often, for years to come.  It is thrilling rock’n’roll, with nothing lo fi about it, yet gorgeous enough you can imagine playing it while keeping warm before the fireplace, all winter long.

Are Brooklyn’s The Men Chosen Incarnations Of Our Fave Deceased Bands?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2012 by johnbuckley100

The Dalai Lama was chosen, it is said, because as a pup, he correctly identified the right glasses owned by a recently deceased lama.  Is the rumor true — okay, we started it — that The Men correctly chose Brendan Canty’s drum stick, Bob Mould’s ear plugs, and Thurston Moore’s plectrum when, mere boys they were then, the punk rock lama’s tested whether they were true incarnations of these cosmic punks?

All we know is that when we heard Open Your Heart, which was released last month, a shiver of recognition went up our spines.  Back down again, too.  The ghosts of Fugazi, Sonic Youth, and Husker Du were present in the room, even as the speakers vibrating made books fall from shelves, and the whole house shook like the ending of an Indiana Jones movie.  And there’s something else going on here, too — a little bit of Warlocks-style modern SF psyche. A Philly cheesesteak smear of Asteroid #4. And then there is this strange harmony guitar thing that makes us think of Cream and Hendrix.  Did we mention that, like White Denim, they are perfectly at home throwing in the odd cowpunk song, too?

The Men opened for Ty Segall and White Fence at Webster Hall two weeks ago, and now fresh after having released Open Your Heart, apparently have hightailed it to fresher climes to record the next one.  They may be mere boys, but these guys are mensches.  By the time The Men hit DC9, we will celebrate the 5th of July as the real American holiday.  Let’s give it up for The Men.

Brendan Canty’s Recommendations On Some Good Fugazi Shows To Download

Posted in Music with tags , , on December 9, 2011 by johnbuckley100

We asked Brendan Canty, who powered Fugazi from behind the drum kit for all those years, which might be the best pre-1998 sets to download.  We’ve been gorging on the shows from around 2000, both because we loved the set lists, and also in the belief that the sound would be better, as by then everything was recorded on DAT, not simply cassettes.  So we wanted to know, from the 500 or more shows recorded prior to ’98 that one could download from the Dischord site, what did someone who was there think were the better ones.  Here’s what Brendan had to say:

I’ve made a quick list here of shows here that I remember fondly, though I’ve not listened to
them yet for quality’s sake, so it may be a crapshoot.

Download Jun 28, 1992 Berlin, Germany Tempodrome

one of our best shows ever I think, if memory serves me well.
in a circus tent.  I think Christo had the Reichstag wrapped right next door.
Download Aug 28, 1993 Kansas City, KS USA Memorial Hall
In which the boys get a gun pulled on them by wired KC promoters over a ticket surcharge dispute.
listen for the aggro exchanges and the lights being shut off.
Also, soundman gets cigar put out on forehead by same goon.
Download Jul 01, 1997 Dunedin New Zealand Room
In which our love for Dunedin indie pop bands springs forth good will.
Download Jan 25, 1992 Los Angeles, CA USA Hollywood Palladium
the second nights are always better.
Download Oct 26, 1996 Tokyo Japan Guilty
Great gear makes for great shows…sometimes.  And I love japan.
I’ll try to listen to these and see if I’m way off mark.
We’ve listened.  He’s not off the mark.  Great shows, and great sounding recordings, cassette or not. Click on the dates to go straight to the Dischord site.
BTW, Brendan’s band Deathfix is playing Comet tomorrow night, for those in DC with a hankering for pizza, ping pong, and rock’n’roll, and are at the Black Cat on Wednesday, December 14th.

Fugazi’s Treasure Trove Reminder Of Greatness

Posted in Music with tags , on December 3, 2011 by johnbuckley100

We have sampled the goods, starting by downloading for $5.00 Fugazi’s great show at Fort Reno from those innocent days of August 2001, and we’re filled with such a mix of joy and frustration.  Joy to hear one of the greatest American bands — and certainly the best band Washington, D.C. has produced — preserved in such incredible sonic purity, to hear a performance we haven’t thought about for years, joy to hear them out of their coma state and alive and kicking.  Frustration that, in no small part because of their glorious perversity, the obstinacy by which they did not play the rock’n’roll game, Fugazi is not today held on a pedestal up there with REM, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and the Replacements, and all the other American bands that made the ’90s and the ’00s less bad than they really were.  And maybe even more frustration their indefinite hiatus continues, and this is the first “new” music we’ve had from them in nine or so years.  But maybe with the excitement unleashed by Fugazi releasing some 800 live recordings, that will change.

There is a perhaps inadvertently hilarious subhead in the story about these newly released recordings in our local CityPaper, Washington’s great free weekly.  “Fugazi’s unvarnished live archive makes an important revelation: These notorious haranguers played good music, too.”  As if all Fugazi’s remembered for is their social activism, their unwillingness to accept more than $5.00 per concert.  Pearl Jam led a brief rebellion against Ticketmaster but now charge $50 per ticket; Fugazi went them, and every one else, several steps further, controlling all means of production, all pricing.  (Which led, in part, to why they’re on hiatus: those members of the band with families to support found it increasingly difficult to take such priestly vows and still put bread on the table.)  And yet what Fugazi of course should be remembered for is as one of the most important American bands, ever.

We downloaded the Reno Park concert from 2001 because we loved late Fugazi.  This was a band that went out strong.  We’d go so far as to say that The Argument, their finale — for now? — was our favorite Fugazi album.  We are so not disappointed by this set, by the quality of this recording — amazing!  Fugazi’s rhythm section could swing, Brendan Canty powerful on the tom toms, but also able to play with cat-like lightness, and Joe Lally able to play deep as a dub master and with the bounce of a standup jazz bassist.  The dynamic between Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto wasn’t the typical breakdown of lead and rhythm responsibilities, but two guitarists who could take high and low roads to get to the same place, often clogging the highway like drag racers hurtling along together.  Fugazi could play at a trot, a sprint, and then do a precision dance between raindrops.  What this live set shows is how tight and graceful the band could be.  Go listen to “Cashout,” which began The Argument, not quite a harangue against the gentrification that was beginning to sweep DC’s marginal neighborhoods in 2001.  At Fort Reno, not far from those neighborhoods, the song ripples along with lithe moves that are transformed into steady rollers of noise, an amazing mix of the lightness of being and a thundering dose of hard rock reality.  Then see how they move on “Epic Problem” — there never was a punk band that could could take on such complex time signatures and literally never miss a beat. The whole set is like this.

We are told much of the country hates Washington for what it represents — a corrosive culture, corruption, a lack of integrity.  But in addition to being the Nation’s Capital, Washington is a real city, and a pretty great rock’n’roll town.  Daniel Boorstin was just so wrong with his put down that Washington had no Left Bank.  He wouldn’t have known about Fugazi if he’d tripped over them.  Fugazi was a real band, representing the real city of D.C., and their having emanated from here confounds the narrative about the city.  D.C.’s government may be corrupt — at both the municipal level and all the way to its highest point: the Capitol.  But our representative band from the immediate bygone era, Fugazi was full of integrity — maybe too much to have survived as a functioning band for this length of time .  They were also one of the undisputed great acts of our age, playing real and thrilling rock’n’roll music.  We are delighted to find out that Fugazi is flooding the zone with so much live music to choose from, 14 years worth of concerts.  If they all thrill like this first sample, Straight Core sensibilities notwithstanding, we can see getting addicted.

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