Confession time. Up until a few weeks ago I never owned any Fugazi on vinyl. Plenty of Ian McKaye – Minor Threat, Embrace, Teen Idles…even his latest band Coriky. Like everyone else my age I certainly had heard the band – I even had for the longest time 13 Songs and Repeater +3 Songs taped on a blank cassette thanks to friends in college who made sure I was aware. But as I got older I branched into other things, and Fugazi was always readily available…a download away. Once Dischord moved to Bandcamp I quickly snatched up digital copies of the albums, but vinyl still eluded me. But it’s never too late (except for certain albums that are INSANELY overpriced and currently out of print) so over the last few weeks I hunted down what I could and we’re starting at the very beginning, with the self-titled debut EP, or as it’s known in some parts 7 Songs.
Is there a more recognizable sound in hardcore than the bass that kicks off “Waiting Room”? I don’t know whether it’s that or the slippery vocal cadence McKaye gives on the verses. Is this the Fugazi Anthem? It feels like something carved out of stone, firmly planting a flag for what the band would stand for even as it foreshadows some of the experimentation that would flourish on future albums, like the ska/reggae rhythms, the odd sonic scratches from McKaye’s guitar (this would eventually grow to include a lot more than just odd guitar scrapes), and the pointed, lyrical attack.
If McKaye gets a lot of the visibility due to also being the label owner/founder, it’s readily apparent Fugazi is very much a band. Guy Picciotto handles leads on the next track “Bulldog Front” and despite only contributing as a vocalist for Fugazi, he would soon jump in on guitar and take a more active role a few months later during the recording of the Margin Walker EP. As it stands here his voice provides a nice counterpoint to the rougher, more raw vocals McKaye belts out. “Bad Mouth” has that push pull between the lines of the chorus, and when it finally devolves into an almost Black Flag breakdown you can hear the band taking everything around them at the time and blending into something unique.
Putting “Burning” on repeat and just marveling at Joe Lally on bass. Everyone is phenomenal, but Lally is the glue. I could probably listen to a full album of him just locking in with drummer Brendan Canty (in fact you kinda can with their new band The Messthetics).
In my head I usually hear Ian McKaye singing, so it’s always a surprise when I realize that in fact Picciotto sings the majority of songs on Fugazi. I love the subtle swing of “Give Me the Cure” and the dissonance in the guitar as the chorus comes up. It also makes me think of almost every noise rock band that came up a decade later and how much they owe to Fugazi. “Suggestion” crashes in with that stellar bass/drum rhythm that McKaye crashes over with his guitar. I don’t know if there’s a band who ever sounded this good, this alive in the studio. The production by Ted Niceley and the band is massive, putting you right in the room with the guys. When you’re in the middle of a song like “Suggestion” you can feel the space of the instruments all around you. Lally’s bass pushes you forward into the menace of closing track “Glue Man” and Christ on Toast having usually listened to this in the context of the 13 Songs CD where it’s scrunched in the middle as a closing track it’s perfect. So angry and filled with vitriol.
Since getting this on vinyl I’ve listened to Fugazi/7 Songs front to back about a dozen times, including five times just today as I wrote this up. One of the most stunning debuts from a band ever, and a reference for the power of hearing it on vinyl. I have the remastered red vinyl from 2021 and it sounds fantastic. Best of all? There’s still some left if you want in…