Stupid fucking words
They tangle us in our desires
Free me from this give and take
Free me from this great debateFugazi: ‘Promises’
Fucked Up Got Ambushed Zipped In.
That’s a hell of a (death) sentence to take your band name from, but Fugazi never came close to not owning the gravity of it. I may have blathered on previously about them making better records than their debut, Margin Walker is one of those.
Following their 1988 debut mini-LP thing with a 1989 mini-LP thing was emblematic of a young band who were straining to unleash their ideas on the world just as soon as they could. Margin Walker only gives you half a dozen more tracks, but there are bands out there in their fourth decade who have only shown a fraction of this creativity in that arid span.
As always with Fugazi the real spark comes from the point where the band’s desire to whip up a white-hot punk rage rubs up tectonically against their sense of restraint. It just thrills me when you can hear that white knuckled tension in Ian Mackaye’s voice and the band’s playing; barely reining it in.
The best illustration here is probably ‘Burning Too’ which opens up like a surplus Minor Threat track and then, magically the band haul it back in and it the song opens up. That utterly distinctive rhythm section and that bounciness and space that isn’t quite ska, isn’t quite reggae, isn’t quite post-punk-funk. The fact that the song uses this to espouse the band’s unremitting message of individual responsibility and wakefulness, just gilds the lily.
Ditto the slower, more spacious ‘Provisional’, which whips itself into a hell of a guitar workout, Guy Picciotto playing alongside Mackaye in a higher register* adds a whole mezzanine of sound. It positively smoulders as Mackaye pleads his hope that ‘every slip’s not a slide’.
The most remarkable song on Margin Walker is ‘And The Same’, a track that gets more relevant and prescient with every passing year of political turmoil in the Western world. I like the way it doesn’t preach any particular view other than that if you fail to think for yourself you’ll be doomed to repeat all the hate and division that’s preceded this time, ‘Action. Reaction. Action. Reaction’. It’s a message that echoes even more now that it did when it was released 30 years ago. Stupid fucking words, indeed.
But hey, don’t trust a card-carrying liberal pinko sensitive type like me, listen to Margin Walker yourself and then either agree with me totally, or report to the nearest Liberal Indoctrination Mind Panel^ for re-education.
In the meantime just listen to the sound of a young band breaking free of the sweaty herd stampeding around them and righteously striking out on their own, guitars meshing perfectly over a restless rhythm track, just like nature intended.
PS. I stole this post’s title from a split Wat Tyler/Thatcher On Acid split CD a friend of mine used to own thousands of years ago. Happy days.
*the Fugazi chapter in Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991, is worth the price of the book alone. In it I learned that Guy Picciotto wanted to join the band but wouldn’t until he worked out a way he could actually add to their sound, he hit upon the high thing and the rest is history.
^L.I.M.P for short (for sure).