Back to the '90s: Fugazi and 'Repeater'

If Public Enemy was hip-hop’s answer to punk rock — and last week we argued that it was — then Fugazi was punk rock’s answer to Public Enemy. If the dynamic between Guy Piccioto and Ian MacKaye wasn’t quite the same as that of Chuck D and Flavor Flav, the energy they brought to every performance and every recording was strikingly similar. Not to mention both groups were confrontational, stridently political and almost dogmatic in their devotion to staying true to the ethic of their respective youth cultures.

Before Fugazi came together in the late ’80s, MacKaye was probably best known as the frontman of the seminal DC hard core punk group Minor Threat and co-founder of Dischord records. Guy Piccioto and drummer Brendan Canty started out in Rites of Spring, another Dischord band often credited with releasing the first “emo” record in 1985. Along with bassist Joe Lally, the foursome put out two fiery EPs in 1988 and 1989 before releasing their debut LP, “Repeater.”

The title track is perhaps the most well known off the album, and remained a staple in their live show for years to come. But there are gems aplenty, from the plaintive chords that kick off “Blueprint” to the driving beat that underpins “Two Beats Off” to the haunting refrain of “Shut the Door.” All throughout the album Fugazi shreds with a seemingly contradictory combination of abandon and precision.

As solid as “Repeater” is, it only hints at the juggernaut that is their live show.  Refusing to play anywhere that didn’t accommodate an all-ages crowd and never charging more than $5 per ticket, Fugazi always gave you far more than your money’s worth. No light show, no costumes, no posing, just Ian, Guy, Joe and Brendan playing their hearts out every night.

— Text by Nicholas Coleman, photo courtesy of Dischord Records

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