New Band of the Month: January – Reflection

This marks the end of my first month of the new feature.

As the inaugural band for the feature, I selected Fugazi (read my initial thoughts and intentions here).

So, after 31 days of listening, what are my thoughts?  Well, I have to break that up into two categories.  When judging an artist or work of art, you have to think both subjectively (does it work for me) and objectively (does it succeed in its goals), acknowledging that art is both a statement of purpose by the artist and also a product of consumption for an audience (not inherently a ‘product’ though).

As a representation of Post-Hardcore music, I would say that the music of Fugazi (across the three albums I listened to, which included “In On The Kill Taker,” “The Argument” and “13 Songs”) feels like an exemplary expression of the form.  The punk rock roots are quite evident, but Fugazi manages to sound simultaneously more controlled but less inhibited then what I normally think of as punk.

If I had a teenage kid who was just starting to get into punk music and I wanted to steer them away from the often solipsistic (and, let’s be honest, whiny) music that represents modern punk/emo, this is exactly what I would give them.  Well, this and Sleater-Kinney.

But, that brings me to my own personal experience of the music.  As primal and emotionally wrought as Fugazi’s music is, I found it hard as a man in my late 20s to feel all that engaged with the rage and frustration that their music expresses.  I’m not trying to make a categorical statement here (because I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions), but I think it’s hard for someone removed from adolescence to tap into that well of angst and fury again.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have my share of angsty days, and I can imagine having a moment when throwing on some Fugazi would totally pump  me up.  But I think I’ve reached a point in my life where what anger and frustration I feel is better expressed by subtler musical releases.  That’s not to say that an adult can’t find resonance within punk or post-hardcore, but I think it helps if you were invested in the genre at least since your teenage years.

What I appreciate about Fugazi is that there is a definite focus on musicality and orchestration.  I think if I had gotten into Fugazi at 18 when my interest in punk was waning, I might have really fallen in love.

As is, though, I appreciate their music and I wish I had spent a little more time with their final album, “The Argument,” as it represents an intriguing evolution of their sound.  Unfortunately, I focused on the albums that I noticed fans recommending the most and so I didn’t really check out “The Argument” until these last couple days.  I, of course, can and will still explore their music.  But January is over and this is where I stand.

Will I Buy An Album?  Not right now.  I have a few mp3s on my computer and a couple Youtube playlists set up, so I can get my Fugazi fix anytime I want.  But I don’t foresee having a hankering all that regularly, so I think I’ll pass on making a new music purchase now.  That could change in time, though (if it does, I’ll probably pick up “The Argument”).

Fugazi fans, please don’t hate me*.  I enjoyed what I heard, I  gave them a pretty fair shot (not listening to them everyday, but listening quite a bit throughout the month), even going so far as to watch “Instrument,” their documentary (my thoughts here).  I think the best thing I can say is that I truly regret not having gotten into them when I was younger, but, alas, I feel like I’ve missed my window for them becoming one of those Important Bands in my life.

Favorite Song: “Waiting Room” is the obvious pick as, from what I can tell, if Fugazi were said to have a ‘signature hit’, this would be it.  It’s a pretty great little banger and I can certainly understand its mass appeal (as ‘mass’ as the Fugazi fanbase is).  Of course, it’s probably one of those songs that ‘real fans’ ignore, like Radiohead’s “Creep,” but oh well.

Next Month: Jazz Rap

*If you are a Fugazi fan, you might enjoy checking out The Finger, a one-off band formed by Ryan Adams and Jesse Malin.  I randomly stumbled across their one album when I was working at a used CD store in Philly.  I don’t really know how else to describe it but as a somewhat reverent homage/parody of post-hardcore music.  It’s definitely created from a place of love, but it isn’t necessarily a revelatory listening experience (not that it was meant to be).  If you’re a fan of the genre, you might find some fun with it.

2 thoughts on “New Band of the Month: January – Reflection

  1. This is Jon. I don’t think you have to think about whether music works or not..well, I don’t think it about much I guess. I mean, I think about music a lot, but when I think about it, it usually involves listening to it in my head. Either it gives you goosebumps or it doesn’t, either you feel like it’s good or it isn’t. I’m not much of a music critic…well, I am, I could tell you why I think certain things suck, but it probably wouldn’t sound like it makes a whole lot of sense to anyone but me. I could tell you why I like certain bands, but it’d be more about the guitar sound or a lyric here or there or just the sound of the voice. Music is either there for me or it isn’t. I just listen and it’s a yes, or no, after like a minute. I wanna blast this or play it while I’m working or whatever, or not? Too bad you didn’t choose Operation Ivy for a good old school hardcore band! But glad to see you gettin’ away from the whiny stuff! You should listen to Country Teasers if you wanna try some post punk …definitely NOT whiny. Try Satan is Real Again. You might like them, the lyrics are completely obnoxious but also super clever adult humor and the music is a bit of an acquired taste. On the other hand, there is one super whiny dude I really like..Bill Callahan from Smog. You probalby know him. If not, check out Knock Knock (you’d really like him if you don’t know him). Definitely check out the Minutemen (definitely not whiny). That song Anchor is so good…amazing little bass riff on that one. And now full disclosure, I don’t really know that much about Fugazi’s music, like you, it was a band I never got into for whatever reason, but I will say this – adding more Al Green into your musical rotation is never a bad thing! When in doubt, I go to Al Green and Bob Dylan. I’ve been obessed with rap since I was like 7 also, I ended up playing drums, music is a very visceral thing for me, either I wanna move around to it, sing along with it, or not. Sure this is a completely rambling response but I haven’t even had any coffee yet.

  2. There is the question of whether music ‘works’ for you, personally, as a listener, and then there is the question of whether the music ‘works’ on the level it’s trying to achieve. I think it is actually very important that you are able to make that distinction, or else you start to dismiss entire genres simply because they weren’t in your wheelhouse as a teenager. And really, that is when most of our major musical preoccupations come into focus. From 16 to maybe 22, you’ve probably pretty much established your foundation, and though you may grow to appreciate stuff outside of your normal realm, it’ll always be in comparison to your foundation.

    For that reason, I don’t foresee me ever really getting into hardcore/post-hardcore more than as just a general musical appreciation. If I wasn’t capable of appreciating music on an intellectual level, I’d dismiss the whole genre purely because it doesn’t affect me on that ‘goosebumps’ level.

    I might add Bill Callahan to my list for this feature throughout the year, but it’s unlikely I’ll include any other hardcore bands for this particular feature because there are so many genres, I want to give them a fair shake, too. (Also, I don’t think our definition of ‘whiny’ would necessarily align.) But as time goes by, I’ll be happy to listen to any music if it lands in my lap. Lucky for me, I have a brother who loves to send me hours of music every couple of years, and since he’s 10 years older than me, he tends to have the stuff I missed in my adolescence.

    As you can see if you skip to the next post, I’m going with some classic hip-hop for the next month.

    And I listen to plenty of Dylan and have my fair share of Green (though, I’m sure I could always go with more). Frankly, I’m more inclined to Bill Withers, though my selection of his songbook is embarrassingly minimal.

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