Review Summary: "Nah dude, check this out..."
Vocals, guitar, bass, drums; bare bones punk rock. There’s nothing else to it, no tricks or twists, nothing. This is music raw and natural. At around about the same time that Nirvana and the grunge scene was about to take the unsuspecting music scene by the throat, a young group by the name of Fugazi released this seemingly insignificant self-titled EP. A release that’s so infectiously good that you won’t be daunted by its importance.
Fugazi (which I will refer to as s/t for the sake of keeping it separate from the name of the band) is simply 23 minutes worth of a good time. Simply put, what you can expect to hear on s/t is some well-formed, head-banging punk rock that everyone can enjoy. S/t is perfect for just jamming out by yourself or to blast at parties. However, at the same time s/t is an important melting pot for not only Fugazi’s later sound, but for the entire genre of post-hardcore that the band are important figures in; somewhat of a history lesson in the genre if you will. The production on s/t can be looked at two ways, depending on what you look for in punk or post-hardcore. First things first, the production is nice and clean, still muddy enough on the guitars to be punk, but audible enough to be enjoyed by any one. You can see this as making it perfect to jam to and enjoy or you can see it as holding the EP back from being as abrasive as possible. However you look at it though, you cannot fault the production. The vocals are up front in the mix and audible, so that you can fully appreciate Guy Picciotto and Ian MacKaye’s lyrics, although the lyrics here aren’t Fugazi at their strongest, the vocal delivery is top-notch.
The album is quick to grab your attention. 22 seconds into the first song “Waiting Room”, the band stop playing. By this point in the first song, the band had only really introduced the bass and guitar riffs for a couple of bars. This stop is sneaky in that it gets you to actually pay attention to see what’s happening. It stops just long enough for you to question what’s happening before the band come back in with a guitar slide. As well as being intentionally attention grabbing, this little stunt also showcases how tight the group’s musicianship is. Although the lyrics on s/t are not Fugazi at their most politically aware, to say that the writing on this EP is weak would be a misconception. “Bulldog Front” had some standout lyrics, addressing people that put up a front to hide their own ignorance,
“Bold, bold mouth talking not so bold
now that you've eaten your own
lips flecked, mouth specked
you strip the skin right off of the bone
but I would never say you act without precision or care
but it's all attention to armour, to the armour you wear so well”
While musically s/t keeps to a fairly standard approach, there is no shortage of moments on the album to keep the listeners interest if you’re not the type of person who can just let an album play around them. “Suggestion” shows off the bands ability to build up energy by dropping out the lead guitars during the verses, then building them back into the chorus. A lot of the guitar work on s/t has a dissonant sound to it, an important characteristic of the post-hardcore genre that they would later come to define somewhat with their more experimental releases later on. If you are familiar with Fugazi’s studio albums, then s/t provides an interesting look at where the band’s sound grew from.
Fugazi’s s/t EP is one of the best history classes you’ll ever sit through. Although the EP was made somewhat obsolete by the compilation 13 Songs which features the EP in its entirety as the first 7 tracks, s/t has enough character to sit on its own. Even if you’re not a big enough fan of post-hardcore or Fugazi for that matter to appreciate the importance of this EP, it’s pretty difficult not to enjoy this EP at face value. Groovy jams, self-aware lyrics and clean, professional production; s/t is one hell of good 23 minute history lesson. Don’t put it off any more, check Fugazi.