Fugazi Part One: 13 Songs and Repeater

Pearl Jam doesn't get enough credit.

I think every generation has those bands who are immensely popular and are very open about their not so popular influences.  Nirvana did the same thing, although they were, like most of Pearl Jam, more interested in promoting their fellow Seattle bands, the ones who had played big parts in their lives but weren't getting the same attention.

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, was vocal about his favorite bands.  He would go so far as to sing bits of their songs during concerts.

Way back in my high school days, I got my first ever bootleg.  It was a recording of Pearl Jam playing at a small club in Paard van Troje in the Netherlands.  It was, appropriately enough, called Pearl Jam: Small Club.

The 8th song of that show, after "Black" and before "Release," was a song that Pearl Jam, to my knowledge, never actually recorded, which is actually for the best, as it's not a particularly good song.  On the bootleg, it's titled "Saying No," and it's more or less about rape.  It's a four minute song and at the three minute mark, Eddie Vedder stops singing his own lyrics.  Instead, he sings the outro of a song called "Suggestion."

This was my introduction to Fugazi.

13 Songs

In the winter of '94, I had a CD player, but I didn't use it much.  I was still mostly listening to casettes, so that's what I bought: "7 Songs" (sometimes known as "Fugazi") by Fugazi which included not only the aforementioned "Suggestion," but "Waiting Room," which was, for whatever reason, Fugazi's best known song.  It was easily my favorite on that tape, although I loved "Bad Mouth" an awful lot, too.

Not long after that, I got "Margin Walker," the cassette that made up the other half of what is considered to be Fugazi's first album, "13 Songs."  "Margin Walker" solidified my enjoyment of Fugazi, as the songs began to become more complicated.  That opening to "Margin Walker" (the song), the bass line in "And the Same," the vocals in "Burning, Too" -- all great stuff.  And that's ignoring what was, I had been told, Fugazi's real classic, "Promises."

At this point in my life, I knew enough about guitar/bass/drums/vocals music to appreciate well crafted, creative songs when I heard them.  The only hesitance I really had to fully embracing Fugazi was Ian McKaye's voice.  His were not the polished vocals that I was used to.  Even the other non-mainstream bands I listened to (Jawbox, Sunny Day Real Estate, Velocity Girl) had, if not clear, than clean vocals.  McKaye sounded like he was grunting out his lyrics, which took some time for me to get used to.  Fortunately, I took to Guy Picciotto's vocals right away.

But as much as I liked "13 Songs," I hadn't completely fallen for Fugazi.  No, that would happen when I quickly moved to "Repeater."

The nice thing about coming late to the Fugazi party is that there were already four albums out when I started listening to them.

Repeater

If I had any doubts about how great Fugazi was, those were removed when I heard the title track on "Repeater."  The chorus is not remotely something you'd expect from anything resembling a punk band.  And that rhythm section?  Holy cow.  This was a band that clearly knew what they had in Joe Lally and Brendan Canty, and they knew enough to stay out of their way when they were on.

"Merchandise" and "Blueprint" could be the best back-to-back tracks on any Fugazi album.  The former was
just the kind of anti-establishment anthem that was perfect for an angry 19 year old.  The latter still gives me goosebunps at the end.

And let's not forget the driving "Greed," which is ostensibly just two parts, yet still works, or the triumphant "Styrofoam."  Is "Reprovisional" cheating a little bit?  Maybe, but it's a great example of how the band had evolved in just two albums.  "Shut the Door" is a great follow-up to "Promises" from "13 Songs," and is another step in the dynamic intensity Fugazi was quickly excelling at.

"Repeater" (the album) is also noteworthy because it's the beginning of the duel guitar formation that would stick with them over the rest of their career.  Guy Picciotto quickly become an excellent song writer, and I think his influence on Ian McKaye pushed them both forward as guitarists.

After two albums, I was hooked.  Fugazi's next two albums would, to me, show a big change in their music.