Review Summary: With "Steady Diet of Nothing" Fugazi began it's steady progression into making truly experimental music.
"Steady Diet of Nothing" is an important record in Fugazi's career because it shows the bands first inklings of experimenting outside the hardcore genre. While "Repeater" and "13 Songs" were both focused on completely stretching the idea of what could be considered hardcore, "Steady Diet of Nothing" shows the bands attempts at being completely rid of the genre title. Perhaps no track represents this more than the slow brooding "Long Division" which could be taken as Fugazi's attempt of a ballad. The climate of the world during this albums creation is important to note as well because of the Gulf War invasion. I find it very telling of Fugazi's attitudes that they released their most relaxed album during the time when most would assume they'd be screaming the most.
The key difference on "Steady Diet of Nothing" is the fact that the dub influence found on their previous releases has now moved to being half of their sound. Where "13 Songs" and "Repeater" was basically just hardcore with touches of dub and other genres, "Steady Diet of Nothing" has pushed the dub influence to the forefront. The first track "Exit Only" basically encompasses the rest of the album-heavy bass drum interplay and even more of the stop/start method that was found on early Fugazi tracks like "Waiting Room." Due to the more laidback feel of this album, MacKaye's vocals don't suit the music as well as Guy's. Most of the weaker tracks like "Reclamation" are brought down because of MacKaye's awkwardness at times. While it certainly isn't a huge negative, sometimes you find yourself wishing for the more sarcastic lip of Picciotto than the brute force of MacKaye. The production has improved a lot from their earlier work and it seems as if this is the first time Fugazi is actually using the studio as another instrument to deliver their message.
"Steady Diet of Nothing" is, like I said, the first album by the band that drifts from the standard hardcore setting of the band and begins to show off the alternative sound that they would be stuck on for the rest of their career. As much as "13 Songs" and "Repeater" represent the early Fugazi sound, this album is essential due to it's view of a band on a fence, not sure if they should stick to their old sound or go for something completely different. This awkward game of unsure development is where the true beauty of the album lies, and what makes it a worthy release in the even more worthwhile Fugazi discography.