1 December 2014

Fugazi - First Demo

Some bands are given a status above their station due to the efforts and reputation gained from previous projects that the band members have been in, that their new projects are given immediate high status before they have even released a song.  Sometimes the praise is given before a note is played and it turns out that the band in question is awful, sometimes (but rarely) the hype is justified.  Fugazi are one of those bands where it was hype that was given correctly.  Fugazi are/were (they have not released any new music since 2001) a Post Hardcore band which was formed in 1986 when Ian MacKaye was looking for a new project after Minor Threat and Embrace had passed on.  This demo was originally released in 1988 on tape and for many years, the demo is final released via CD & digital download.  This is a look at a band in the early stages; it was released after the band had only done ten shows.  Some of these songs ended up on their first album 'Repeater', other tracks ended up on early eps such as ' Fugazi'.  As a historical document of a band in progress, it is a great idea; but has this demo dated well?
Starting the album is "Waiting Room" is much like the studio version (as are all the songs on here that have been released in different releases).  It is of no real surprise that the band sounds incredibly solid on this version, for a band that had only played ten shows at that point this is an incredible song.  I can see why it had such an impact when it was first released as it still sounds like a bomb being released in 2014 as it would have done in 1986.  “Merchandise” is a song which I first heard covered by Face To Face, their version is one that I have on constant rotation, as well as the Fugazi version.  However, this one has the first time, fire in the belly sound that this sort of music thrives on.  It is one of those numbers that no matter how many times you hear it, the impact is immediate.  I still get hairs going up and down my neck after all these years, just breathtaking.  “Furniture” is another quiet bass verse, loud as hell chorus and general chaos that ensures with this sort of number.  It is a sort of number that is all too common place for some people, back then though it would have been almost unheard of for some folk.  When you think of it in that way, it adds another layer to an extraordinary number.

Next is the first take of the legendary “Song #1” which really does not need an introduction; once again, you have to look at this through the eyes of someone hearing it for the first time in 1986; it would have been a much different experience to hearing it now.  I can hear so many bands that came afterwards in this number – Pixies, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. – to name just three; it is one of the most influential numbers to have ever been released on the USA Alternative rock scene, that its impact is still relevant all these years on.  Hearing this early version is brilliant, you can hear the odd note that is not quite right but that is such a refreshing change; the pre pro-tool era is something I really miss.  “The Word” is the fifth song to come off the album, it is another song which as far as I can see has not been released in another format; but what I love about this song is the Post-Hardcore slow bridge section and rumble; it has a dub influence which just makes this song one of the tracks of the demo. This recording is another rough gem that is forever in this rough format, just perfect.  “Bad Mouth” is a slow anthem for the disenchanted, same as it ever was.  It might not get as much praise as songs such as “Waiting Room” and “Song #1”, but without this sort of number the band would have not grown into the beast that it would become.  Once again, this early recording shows that the fire in this band was for the full period of its existence.  “Break-In” is fast and vicious; it is a brilliant punk/hardcore number that sounds like it would start a mosh pit in a room by itself.  If only some modern bands had that this sort of passion and did not sound as if they were going through the motions.

“Turn Off Your Guns” once again keep up the energy from this album, there is not a dull moment in the song much like there has not been a dull moment on this album so far.  It does not reach those peaks of some of the songs such as “The Word” and “Furniture”, but it does reach has that energy which I always look for in a song.  In this case, taking the anger and processing it into a song that can be your voice in a world that seems not to give a shit. It was also not on the original demo, but it is a bonus track of sort; it was previous only released in the Fugazi Live series.  “And The Same” is the longest number on this record, it starts with a guitar loop that fades into a slow and brooding number that promises much and deliver more than its original intent.  It is a song that has more layers that initial listens, you hear different sections in different lights upon subsequent listens.  It does not outstay its welcome and it would have shown that the band were not 3 minute hardcore wonders, in ways it pointed towards the future in sections.  Penultimate track “In The Defence Of humans” starts off with the joke ‘Mustang Sally take 1’ and then it dives into a short, sharp, shock track with has some slow contrasting moments to keep the audience guessing about when to jump around.  Another number that influenced more bands/people than you can probably imagine, this is another bonus track of sorts, original released on a complication called ‘State Of The Union’.  Ending the album is “Joe #1” which brings this record to a noise filled closure, the reverb and guitar work on here is timeless, it just brings this demo/album to a beautiful conclusion.

I am sure that I am showing my age, but this sort of music still makes me very excited.  To hear the original demo of these songs has made me realise what I enjoy about this band/genre.  As I have pointed out, the historical value of this is probably a bit more important than the fact it is another version of songs people will have got in different formats.  You are hearing a band that is ten shows old, full of a new fire and making their own identity in the world.  Yes, some of the members had reached heights in their previous projects, but this one (for me at least) is a special one.  It is almost perfect and much in keeping with the band, essential.  I would like an album of new music (as would the rest of the world), but only on their terms (as it always has been).  There was a reason these guys are held as one of the best examples of the Post-Hardcore genre – they fucking wrote the blueprint!!

9.5 out of ten – Almost perfect, almost....

Top track - Merchandise

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Fugazi page on Dischord records here, where you can also purchase the album as well

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

You can listen to the album on Deezer here

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