Review Summary: End Hits is certainly a distinctive record in the band’s discography and one of the band’s best albums.
Printed in bold and noticeable graphics, with a dingy and dirty disposition, boldly printed in the liner notes of Fugazi’s End Hits
are the words Committed to excellence
. Whether this is an ironic stab at some sort of corporate conglomerate’s company slogan or whether it’s a representation of Fugazi’s own motto and quality standard, it doesn’t quite really weigh on whichever is right in this case; Fugazi has been committed to excellence ever since the group formed in the wake of the American hardcore scene’s dissipation. End Hits'
hallmark and distinctive legacy in the Fugazi discography is its certain ambivalent and polarizing effect on its fan base and critics (who it seems were one and the same). As the story goes, some loved End Hits
to no end and hailed it as one of the group’s greatest records and some feigned themselves to the record’s existence within the Fugazi catalogue.
I’d like to assume that Ian Mackaye and Guy Piccioto haven’t been swaggering solemnly in well-defined and clean tuxedo’s, strutting the streets of Washington D.C. in the city nightscape circa 1998, making it known that they were committed to excellence
, but you may just assume Fugazi’s approach to writing their music has reflected into their lifestyle, after hearing a glimpse of End Hits
as it emerges from your speakers. Immediately it is easy to grasp that End Hits
is easily Fugazi’s most experimental record, with any notion of linearity thrown out of the band’s high-rise apartment. Perhaps identical to the one overlooking this beautiful and sleek city view adorned on the album cover? Brendan Canty’s immediate rat-a-tat-tat pulses the attention of the listener in the rhythmically and excellent opener “Break” as Joe Lally increases the tension with his melodic bass line, seeing the band anticipate it’s release and then presents itself through Piccioto’s strangely catchy but abrupt sing-along; suddenly leading to Mackaye’s eminent yelp. Fugazi lays down the blueprint for this record from the get-go – although describing this as a 'blueprint' would be optimistic at best.
Try a treasure map. Looking for a definite direction to End Hits
akin to a swashbuckling pirate’s journey into the open sea for a treasure map that has been violently torn into pieces, leaving the lonely pirate left to piece together the missing messages and to connect together the directions. In this respect, End Hits
is a tapestry that has been stitched together in a strange arrangement, separated in fragments and sonic directions. This leaves the tapestry to be a ridiculous and sloppy piece of cloth that has a strange allure to it that makes the end product incredibly enthralling and memorable.
I may have painted the picture of End Hits as lacking any sense of cohesion, and if I have, forgive me. Standout tracks like the frantic “Caustic Acrostic” crams many different ideas and elements of Fugazi’s sound and blends it together seamlessly with a strong sense of song-writing, making it one of the best songs on the record. The rhythmic importance that Fugazi has so feverishly strived to perfect is heightened even further with both Joe Lally and Canty’s methodic rhythms, seen quite heavily in the album highlight “Recap Modotti”. It definitively encompasses the quiet and low-brow atmosphere of the whole album. The intensity of the band's instrumentation is restrained and controlled; the intensity and volume of the track is set behind the backdrop of a walking-bass line, and for that it is the easily the record’s best track. “Floating Boy” showcases the seamless integration of Piccioto and Mackaye’s interesting guitar interplay behind (again) the backdrop of a jazzy bass line, all before falling apart with Piccioto whispering lullabies about sailing out on the ocean. Wait. Perhaps the foreseen prediction I made may have some merit after all! Jokes aside, “Pink Frosty” is easily the most demonic and strangely settling song the band has ever recorded, creating a bleak atmosphere and a hymn that can easily be your child’s lullaby of choice.
On the other side of the sea, the band chooses to maintain their reputation as a band willing to strike a message down into the hearts of the listener, and the linear “Closed Captioned” exhibits Mackaye’s intense vitriol with lyrics like “The direction we just want we don't know/This one wants the art this one wants the politics/ Everybody wants their own damn station”
, reflecting on the murderous ways of the music industry. In addition to this, it is also one of the more definite and cohesive songs on the record, dipping its toes in the regular song-writing of Fugazi’s blueprint. “Place Position” and “Guilford Fall” also demonstrate the brilliance and virtuosity of Fugazi’s song-writing, the latter heading into disparate directions before returning into a raucous guitar line that is the closest Fugazi will ever get to arena-rock.
And as Guy Piccioto and Ian Mackaye croon at the top of their lungs, yelling yawn-yawn-yawn!
– which is slightly ironic in itself – End Hits
demonstrates a side of Fugazi that fans would only get a glimpse of. A sound shattered and disjointed, with arrangements sounding like they’re on the brink of collapse, in a way that is entirely exciting and invigorating. And even though you won’t see Guy Piccioto, Brendan Canty, Joe Lally, and Ian Mackaye swagger solemnly through the tough streets of Washington D.C., or catch a glimpse of them with a sailor’s pipe and an open sea; End Hits
is certainly a distinctive record in the band’s discography and one of the band’s best albums.