Review Summary: Maybe it’s a mediocre Fugazi album, but that’s still a great album regardless.
Fugazi’s “Repeater” will always have a special place in my heart because it’s the album I first got laid to. I’ll pop it on every now and again and it takes me back to a simpler time. Other than that, its basic drawbacks are that it’s not as versatile as “13 Songs” and frankly not as good as pretty much all their later albums.
“Repeater” is an album that delves deeper into the more aggressive side of early Fugazi. Crinkly, overly-trebled guitars are the main focus of the attack with the vocals perfectly accenting the anger of Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye. The unfortunate side effect of that is that the album only has two vocal aesthetics: whispered, near spoken word vocals and furious screaming.
The instruments still make good use of the soft-loud, start-stop style developed in Fugazi’s first album, but the recording is so flat and dull that it leaves little room to react. Fugazi only has two levels and they don’t really have any moments where they pile on more and more layers and culminate them into a catharsis of sound. The wall of sound is still there, and powerful, but it abruptly changes into quiet instead of the subtle shift in volume Fugazi uses.
Another problem is the tone of the drumming. Brendan Canty is a monster drummer, but he’s never given a chance to shine. He does do a well-paced job on the album. Often he keeps everything coherent and quick-paced. He also puts a lot more emotion into that set than most guitarists put into their strings.
A big highlight of the album is Shut the Door. It uses dynamics to its great advantage. It starts with a cool and subdued Fugazi baseline, and the bass remains subdued throughout the song. The guitars put aggression into the song and are basically a second Ian MacKaye, mimicking his singing to a tee. When he sings, they are clean, and when he yells, it sounds like they’re yelling right back at him. The drums are so tight, and when a drum and bass interlude comes in, Canty sure does shine.
So despite a few boring mid-album songs and a few filler tracks, “Repeater” did much to develop the early Fugazi sound and was a stepping stone to “In on a Kill Taker,” which was the album that made later Fugazi sound possible. “Repeater” and “13 Songs” will always be overshadowed by the masterpieces of later Fugazi cuts, but they are a juicy dive into early post-hardcore, and “Repeater” has stood the test of time. Maybe it’s a mediocre Fugazi album, but that’s still a great album regardless.