This week’s reviews: Fugazi, Wilco

Fugazi is considered by some to be the best band ever.  Hailing from DC and formed in the mid 1980s, Fugazi was a post-hardcore band featuring Ian MacKaye (formally of Embrace and Minor Threat), Joe Lally, Brendan Canty, and Guy Picciotto (formally of Rites of Spring). They developed and lived by a DIY ethos of keeping show tickets cheap by not selling merch and, at times, playing at non-traditional venues. By keeping overhead low, they sustained a loyal and fervent fan base. Fugazi was also one of the first bands to use two singers (Ian and Guy) and at one point had two drummers.

This week they released First Demo, the band’s first demo tape. It was recorded in 1988 at Inner Ear Studios after the band had only played 10 shows, according to Dischord. These unreleased songs were Fugazi’s first experience with how their newly developed sound would translate from the chaotic venue to the organized studio.

While many demo albums are throwaways, this one certainly is not. It is a testament to their talent as songwriters and musicians.  The track listing kicks off with “Waiting Room”  and “Merchandise”, which showed up on 1988’s 7 Songs EP and 1990’s Repeater, respectively. “Merchandise” is one of those essential Fugazi songs with the lyrics “You are not what you own/ We owe you nothing/ You have no control.”  “And the Same” is a song where the band’s reggae and funk influences are felt.

After this release, there is no excuse not to listen to Fugazi and loudly hope for a reunion.

Recommended Tracks: “Song #1,” “Merchandise,” and “Waiting Room”

Wilco released a greatest-hits called What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014.  I expected this album to be just 20 tracks but it is actually 38 tracks that span the past 20 years.When presented with these 38 tracks, it is easy to recognize the diversity of Wilco’s discography.  In the beginning, there was the alt-country. Then there was more straight-forward folk (like in Mermaid Avenue). Wilco reached their stride with Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and the more experimental A Ghost is Born. This was followed by the dad-rock era and some average material. This has to do with Wilco’s changing line-up; the only constant, more or less, is Jeff Tweedy.

The album is arranged chronologically. First up is a selection of tracks from A.M., the band’s twangy 1995 debut album. This era was directly influenced by Tweedy’s time in Uncle Tupelo.There is “She’s in a Jar” and “I’m Always in Love” from 1999’s  Summerteeth, and “Monday” from 1996’s Being There. A few Mermaid Avenue are included on the album, including “Hesitating Beauty” and “California Stars.”  These songs, from Tweedy’s collaboration with Billy Bragg in honor of Woody Guthrie, are some of his best work.There are classics like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” “I’m The Man Who Loves You,” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” from 2002’s excellent Yankee Foxtrot Hotel.  The album closes with later material, including “You and I” and “I Might” from Wilco (The Album) and The Whole Love, respectively.

As a career spanning album, this compilation is full representation of where Wilco has been and where they are going.  By including songs from all the albums, you can just pick your favorite era and go with it.

Recommended Tracks: “Box Full of Letters,” “Hesitating Beauty,” “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”


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