Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Fugazi

  • Repeater [Dischord, 1990] A-
  • 13 Songs [Dischord, 1990] Choice Cuts
  • Steady Diet of Nothing [Dischord, 1991] Neither
  • The Argument [Dischord, 2001] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Repeater [Dischord, 1990]
From the unyielding strictures of Minor Threat's straight-edge hardcore to the confrontational formalism of Fugazi's surgical AOR, Ian MacKaye is a musical puritan as well as all the other kinds. Obsessed with corruption, he's learned that words and voices don't excise it as efficiently as a well-honed guitar. So if the rock-solid precision of Guy Picciotto's distorto riffs offer something like pleasure, that's a contradiction MacKaye will have to live with, because Picciotto is the star of a unit that no matter what you read is just now coming on. A-

13 Songs [Dischord, 1990]
"Provisional" Choice Cuts

Steady Diet of Nothing [Dischord, 1991] Neither

The Argument [Dischord, 2001]
Shades of Gang of Four, Minutemen, Mission of Burma even, to update for appearance's sake, Dismemberment Plan, one of many bands Ian MacKaye hath wrought. Punk minimalism evolved into song forms that bifurcate like art-rock. Everybody hip to tempo shifts, rhythm changes. And on this album, finally, recording equal to the tough dynamics that keep Fugazi alive as much as its integrity and idealism. Political chamber music isn't what they envisioned. But it's what they've accomplished, and an accomplishment it is. B+

Further Notes:

Subjects for Further Research [1990s]: The most principled band of the '90s declined to send out promos, a decision I would have respected even if they hadn't been so stalwart in minimizing ticket prices, staging all-ages shows, and otherwise putting punk's D.C-based straight-edge ethos into practice. Since their Dischord label remained solvent as other indies went mainstream or under, I'm sure they understood venture capital better than me. I bought three early-'90s albums: 13 Songs, Repeater, and Steady Diet of Nothing. These were enough to convince me that from the strictures of Minor Threat's razor-sharp hardcore to the confrontational formalism of Fugazi's surgical AOR, Ian MacKaye has always been a musical puritan as well as all the other kinds. Obsessed with corruption, he figured out that words and voices don't excise it as efficiently as a well-honed guitar--specifically Guy Picciotto's precise, rock-solid distorto riffs. On Repeater, Picciotto offered something like pleasure. On the other two the resemblance was more abstract. I'm not any kind of puritan. So I stopped buying their records.