I am a patient boy
I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait
My time is like water down a drain
Everybody’s moving, moving, moving, moving
Please don’t leave me to remain
In the waiting room
Here’s a real 1537 favourite Fugazi Fugazi, this band’s original release from 1988. For a few years I did wonder whether Fugazi were a Marillion tribute band, I gather they weren’t. Fish got the name for Fugazi from Tim Page’s book ‘Nam, whereas as Ian MacKaye got it from Mark Baker’s Nam, a collection of veteran’s accounts of the war* – I found out today where the word came from, I used to think it just meant ‘fucked up’ – nope more than that as it happens:-
Fucked Up Got Ambushed Zipped In
Zipped into a body bag, of course…
Anyway after disbanding my favourite US hardcore band Minor Threat** and making a couple of false starts, Ian MacKaye put together Fugazi from half of Dag Nasty and Brendan Canty and Guy Picciotto from Rites of Spring – although Picciotto joined to late to contribute guitar to Fugazi. The band was formed because of a desire to do something different, to express the players’ growing musical talents and in disgust at the increasing violence on the hardcore scene. The theory was to marry hardcore’s intensity with the rhythmic spaces of reggae. The theory worked.
It’s not difficult to like a record when it opens with one of your favourite songs ever, like Fugazi does with ‘Waiting Room’, but how to sum up its’ genius? from the off it just crackles with a barely contained, barely restrained energy and power and the drop out early on in the song just ramps up the stakes vastly somehow. Hardcore you can dance, rather than just slam, to and its all the more striking and powerful because of it. Loud though it gets in places, you can just hear the band holding back and, perversely, that’s exactly why it makes me want to smash stuff up. I really don’t think music gets an awful lot better than this.
The next couple of songs don’t keep up the same standard, although ‘Bulldog Front’ has its moments with some brilliant bass work by Joe Lally, but we hit the heights again with ‘Give Me The Cure’ and its matter-of-fact menace.
I never thought too hard on dying before
I never sucked on the dying
I never licked the side of dying before
And now I’m feeling the dying
Ian MacKaye’s vocals on this song are just incredible, he just sells the lyric like nothing else matters on earth, but again you can hear a certain restraint, the sound of a band not quite letting go. Next track ‘Suggestion’ is even better, a really powerful song told from the point of view of a woman being hassled on the street and the equal levels of guilt shared by bystanders who do nothing about it as she has to,
Suffer your words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands
Suffer your interpretation of what it is to be a man
This is another great, great track and what I like and respect a lot is the fact that it’s not just an exercise in polemic, the playful rhythm and the lightness of touch throughout mitigate against this, right up until the final, surprising shout of ‘Guilty!’.
Fugazi went on to make far better records than this, but as a statement of intent this can’t be beat. This is music that really meant something to those who were making it and which went on to really mean something to those who heard it. The fact that the band really lived it like they meant it, just made it even better. Job done.
P.S – this was later packaged with their second EP, Margin Walker, as the 13 Songs CD. You can guess which versions I own.
*Tim Page’s book is incredible, both as a photographic record and for his flashes of writing, but my favourite is Michael Herr’s Dispatches, a book that made a huge impression on me.
**the song ‘Minor Threat’ being my favourite hardcore song ever (and I don’t even own a vinyl copy of it):