Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated recent release he thinks we need to know about. This week it’s Fugazi's The Argument. Listen to "The Kill" from the album and read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
In 1999, Rumpshaker fanzine interviewed Ian MacKaye of Fugazi and his mother. It’s an incredibly long interview, wholly unedited, though largely charming, if not always particularly pertinent. The funniest, sweetest aside is a long story Ginger MacKaye and Ian tell together of her then newfound love for the song “Love Hurts” by Nazareth. She’d heard it on the short-lived X-Files spin-off Millennium, but unable to identify it for further listening, she turned to her son. Ian:
I actually had to search it out on the internet to figure that one out. She was like “It’s some ’70s band,” and I was like, “God, I can hear it, but I don’t know what it is.” SO I start searching for people who did that song and I got so many songs coming up under that. So I ended up joining the Millennium website. I had to join, register. I wrote on the fan question and answer thing, NEED INFO! I got the response within like 12 hours. … I made her a tape because she likes to listen to stuff over and over. I just made her a tape of “Love Hurts” by Nazareth over and over and over for thirty minutes.
This absolutely tender, serious nerdy devotion to your mother is the kind of thing I undyingly respect, something I hope to instill in my children and find a badge of honor in friends, it is not, in short, what I look for in the singer of a rock band. In short, this is why I was never really interested in Fugazi. They just seemed too nice.
A couple years after that, I moved to DC for college. A friend of mine, a total Fugazi nut, told me he’d seen the band’s Guy Picciotto in the grocery store, stocking up before a storm. He bought low acid orange juice, he said. This spawned a years-running joke about Guy’s sensitive stomach.
The big news one week when I was in college in DC was that the Washington Redskins had played Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” over the PA. The local paper interviewed MacKaye about it, but I don’t remember his opinion. There’s a video on YouTube of the band performing the song. People are going nuts. Not in a crazy punch people way, but in the way you might when your team is totally coming from behind in the playoffs at a home game. Total wild bliss, screaming fans, subliminal excitement. Everyone in the bnd has their shirts off. Whoever it was that worked at the Redskins that programmed that song, I understand.
The Argument was released just after I arrived in DC for college. The first few weeks, I met a kid named Mike who, completely freaking out, recounted for me the cover art that Fugazi had released for the record. “It’s two slates composited. One is an arm reaching for help, the other holding an Olympic torch.” Yeah, so? He didn’t get me, I didn’t get him. Neither of us buckled. His affinity is admirable, if nerdy.
Right now a friend is telling me about a show at the gallery he works at where a man will do some sort of bizarre installation performance. My friend is writing the press release, says he wishes he could just write “X artist would like to do some stupid shit to spend lots of money so he can go on shopping spree.” I am simultaneously jealous of and hateful towards said artist. It’s tricky at best, disingenuous at worst.
On YouTube there is a video of a band at this year’s SXSW, more than half a decade since the last Fugazi show, making fun of the band’s no moshing policy. Ian MacKaye just wanted to create a safe space for people to see a show without having to fear they’d get hurt. It’s a good-natured request.
The Argument, a million years later, is really good. Fugazi is incredibly tight, the side effect, or possibly the purpose, of years of convivial times and band practice. They also solved their early-mid ’90s problem of too much ping on the snare. Everything shuffles properly. One song has whistling on it.
Reading Ian MacKaye’s interview with his mom, he barely ever talks about his band, instead talks about growing up, about his family, about his city. He’s principled, sure, but earnestly so, inherently. “I never thought about the future,” he says. “It’s never been an interest of mine.” He tells a story about listening to Led Zeppelin and freaking out that he never wrote grownup songs because he thinks he never became a grownup. He’s genuinely concerned. It’s sweet. He seems like a really good person. Is that corny?