On Second Thought
Fugazi - The Argument






for better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.

Shut up. Shut up and sit down. Get off your fucking hardcore high-horse and shut the fuck up. Take your ethics and your polemic and your do-it-yourself attitude and your straight-edge and shove them right up your fucking ass. You people piss me off with your ennui and your guitars and your anti-consumerism stances and your black-rimmed glasses and your little fucking ironic backpacks. You nasty little intense little fuckers.

This is Fugazi’s best album and I don’t care what you think. You can take Repeater and fuck off with it. I don’t care about your hardcore historiography. I don’t care about Minor Threat or Nation Of Ulysses. I’m not a hardcore fan and I never was nor ever will be. As a genre I think its arrogance, ennui, and piety make for thoroughly distasteful baggage, never mind the actual po-faced, anti-fun, serious-as-cancer music, afraid of hooks, embarrassed by choruses, as enjoyable as a whack in the face from a policeman during an anti-capitalism riot, and even less productive in terms of accomplishing goals. Insular, exclusionary and proud of it, I have no truck with this attitude. Is this descended from punk? No one ever changed the world by cordoning themselves off from it. These hardcore kids who sit around musing over concepts like “record industry self-sufficiency” and “selling out” have forgotten the musical eclecticism and joyous acceptance that made The Clash so great, the wilful experimentalism that PiL and Wire used to make them stand out from the crowd of so-so post-punk groups, the fact that The Sex Pistols were gloriously ugly pop situationists above and beyond being sincerely and pointlessly ‘punk’. Husker Du were a noisy gay pop band, Make-Up much more interested in righteous soul and gospel than conservative white-boy guitar scraping. Gang Of Four were a fucking funk band!

But these hardcore kids today are running scared of anything that doesn’t fit in the milieu of stern, Caucasian post-modern guitar angst, deadly serious and deadly dull, of backpacks and fanzines and all-ages gigs, of ugly, sexless, charmless music made by ugly, sexless and charmless people. Preaching and righteousness and ethics and half-baked politics. Misdirected guilt energy stemming from the greed and inhumanity that is your birthright. Anyone can cheer when George Bush gets pilloried. Listening to Fugazi isn’t going to buy your place in heaven, you dumb little fucks. It’s time to ignore reputation and misheard folklore.

There are handclaps and harmonies on this record, and handclaps + harmonies = pop music. I know how much that scares you, but it really is time that you got used to it and even embraced it. Their last three albums have seen a concerted attempt to broaden their scope musically, and still the talk that surrounds their fans is of ethics and lifestyle and nonsense. And who cares about that, really? “Cashout” is about something or other and I’m sure it’s very liberal and profound, but damn it if I’m not just into this for the sheer visceral hell of those guitars, those guitars that sound like steel being wrought in white-hot forges, those drums that smack you in the solar plexus and wind you and leave you curled up on the floor. There’s some screaming and some nonsense (“one banana one banana one banana more”, possibly) and some frantic build up at the start of “Full Disclosure” and then there’s this massive chorus and it sounds like The Sex Pistols, which is to say that it’s spitting bile like you expect but it’s got a melody underneath too and it picks you up rather than just slamming you back. And those harmonies you’re so scared of are in here as well. And again, those drums.

Those drums. There are two sets of sticks thwacking two sets of skins on Ex-Spectator and on Epic Problem, which is just that, HUGE and AWKWARD and FUCKING BRILLIANT, and with a hush in the centre and then a dynamic swing that sets fire to your chair and sticks it’s fingers in your holes and bowls you down the alley into the pins and CLANG, if it isn’t a strike. And fuck me if their voices aren’t awful when they holler and spit and puke on your shoes, but when they actually sing, which they do on this record, they do it better than they ought to be allowed to do it. And there are acoustic guitars (“Nightshop”) and subtle, hushed arrangements incorporating the aforementioned handclaps (“Life & Limb”), long sad songs with strings (“Strangelight”), and it’s no longer unsophisticated, brutish hardcore that these guys peddle, but rather accomplished, heavy guitar pop. Or something. Shove your genres up your ass as well. The title track to this album is the best thing Fugazi have ever done. I don’t know what it is.


By: Nick Southall
Published on: 2003-09-01
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