Day 23 of the #mayvinylchallenge asks for a limited edition/signed/numbered or otherwise rare album. I’ve been talking a lot about my love for the Dischord label, and was lucky enough to get in and order their limited edition box set of the First Six Records back when it was $40 and not the $250+ it’s going for now on Discogs. Covering the entire spectrum of music from bands I’ve never listened heard before now to bands that were a formative part of my youth, there’s a lot to unpack here, and that’s besides the great booklet, original liner notes and lyrics/posters, not to mention the careful job of sleeve and colored vinyl recreation, so let’s jump in here with some thoughts.
As you can see from the image above, a lot of care and detail went into recreating this series of 7″ records. The accompanying booklet has early pictures, anecdotes about the formation of the label and the extremely DIY esthetic that went into the creation of these six records. I consider myself still relatively new to vinyl collecting, and it’s only recently the allure of 7″ records manifested – and I have Dischord to thank for that. So without further ado, let’s get into each of these records.
The Teen Idles: Minor Disturbance EP: Dischord No.1 is ground zero for everything I think of when I think of “hardcore punk.” The songs are vicious and go at the speed of light, but the vocals are still reasonably clear, enough for you to understand the vitriol and anger at anything and everything a young punk in 1980 could rebel against. You can still hear the classic rock and roll influence in the solo to “Sneakers” and the opening title track is a clarion call to bored punks everywhere. Another band in this set might have more visibility but make no mistake: it starts with Teen Idles.
State of Alert – No Policy EP: Who’s this Henry Garfield on vocals? Rollins makes his Dischord debut with State of Alert’s debut, and while the velocity is scaled back a bit compared to Teen Idles it’s no less ferociousness in its attack. There’s a great buzzsaw quality to the Michael Hampton’s guitars, and tracks like “Lost in Space” and “Girl Problems” show a band with tons of drive and a knack for crafting a killer song. You can already in Rollin’s voice the snarl that would shortly attract Black Flag and put a premature end to S.O.A. but launch the career of Rollins.
Minor Threat – Minor Threat EP: When I was in high school my friend Charlie and I would ride around in his old station wagon blasting Minor Threat’s Out of Step on cassette, much to the chagrin of our neighbors. When I got to college the first CD I picked up when I was their Complete Discography CD, with this iconic cover. I don’t think they know what this image would mean to so many people over the decades, or how songs like “Filler”, “Seeing Red”, “Straight Edge” or the closing title track would be a rallying cry and anthem for kids even to this day. Yeah, I said the blueprint for everything may have been that Teen Idles record, but Minor Threat was and remains the pinnacle for hardcore punk and the DC scene for me.
Government Issue – Legless Bull EP: 10 songs in about 9 minutes. That should tell you everything. Fast and in your face with a guitar tone that reminded me of Dead Kennedys, with the snark to match. This was the band I was least familiar with, but based on tracks like “Religious Ripoff”, “Rock & Roll Bullshit” and the hilarious “I’m James Dean” I fast became a convert, despite not getting pain from Supertramp. I can maybe do without the overt shaming of “Fashionite” and the slight rhetoric behind “No Rights” but that’s only 1:30 of music total, so it’s all good.
Minor Threat – In My Eyes EP: It may only be four songs, but every one is a stone cold classic. “In My Eyes”. “Out of Step (With the World)”. “Guilty of Being White”. “Steppin’ Stone”. If the In My Eyes EP was the only thing Minor Threat ever released, they would still be considered a giant of the genre. The way “Steppin’ Stone” starts like it’s coming from a shitty car stereo a mile way only to slowly grow in intensity until the song is roaring in your face, it still slays every time I hear it. The chorus to “Our of Step (With the World)” remains one of the most fun choruses to shout along with, and I can’t imagine a world without it.
Youth Brigade – Possible EP: My familiarity with Youth Brigade came from their first demo, which I loved never caused me to follow up this, the official debut. More spit and anger, but damn how good is Danny Ingram, their drummer? Also huge points for going outside the normal approach with the PHENOMENAL “Barbed Wire”. Side 2 continues the great attack with the bass-forward “Pay No Attention” and I’m realizing it was a mistake to sleep on this EP. Vocalist Nathan Strejcek has the perfect sneer in his voice for this kind of thing, and it great to hear how much variety they bring to what amounts to under 10 minutes of music.
Which leaves us with The Slinkees, and their Who Cares? EP. This is the sound of a group of kids discovering they can make the music they love, and not really caring about much else. It’s rough, it was never meant to be released, but without this taste of what it’s like to make a loud noise for other people, who knows if we ever would have gotten Dischord? I think not, and so despite its rough edges it’s essential in understanding how the label became the label it is.