Fugazi - 13 Songs (Cover Artwork)


13 Songs (1990)


13 Songs almost always comes to my mind when thinking about Fugazi. It may be because it was the first album I bought by the band, but it may be because it still, to this day, ranks as one of my favorites, both out of Fugazi's entire output (these days it's definitely neck-and-neck with The Argument) and also out of my entire music collection. So how do I write a review of this album without sounding like a total fanboy? I couldn't tell you, to be honest, but I shall try.

13 Songs, in case you didn't know, combines Fugazi's first two EPs (Fugazi and Margin Walker) onto one CD. The first half easily beats out the second half in terms of melody, texture and memorable songs (in my humble opinion), but that's not to say that the second half is lacking. It isn't. But we'll get to that.

The self-titled EP, which, obviously, makes up the first half of this disc, kicks things off with "Waiting Room," an anthemic masterpiece beginning with one of the catchiest bass lines I've heard yet. A few bars of this said bass line and soon palm-muted guitar and deliciously precise drums are added, providing one of the finest examples of the cohesion of Fugazi. The lyrics seem to be words of empowerment, and convey an appropriate message of individuality to accompany the music. The vocal interplay among Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto in this song is superb, and documents what was soon commonplace in the band's music. See, Ian got to be the throatier and, for the most part, more confrontational singer (and screamer), while co-guitarist Guy Picciotto carved his niche as the higher-toned, more abstract counterpart. In "Bulldog Front," Guy steps up to sing lead, spouting off fierce lines that look to be mocking macho posturing. Drummer Brendan Canty lends great support here, with brisk, fractious beats anchoring the two subtly crunching guitars and Joe Lally's melodic bass in the verse, then exploding in the chorus. Once again, Ian and Guy juggle vocal duties, and to great effect. "Bad Mouth" is yet another display of the rhythmic team of Brendan and Joe, and Ian's vocals are alternately sung and shouted, slyly spitting out another lyrical wake-up call. The following track, "Burning," is where things get a little interesting. See, rather than relying on one mood, the first EP was instead made up of two. Obviously, we have Ian's more straightforward approach, but with Guy's more subtle, darker lyrical themes, there are two facets to Fugazi's songs.

Therefore, "Burning" is trickier stuff, what with Guy's cryptic words sung in his slippery range, the almost eerie swirls of feedback and guitar noise serving as the perfect nuance. "Give Me the Cure" travels down an even bleaker road, with Guy singing lead again, almost morbidly crooning, then shouting, subject matter dealing with death. "Suggestion" shows off another trick in the Fugazi book, and that is writing impersonally, yet from the point of view of the subject in question. Here, Ian steps back up to the mic and delivers a perspective most definitely not autobiographical; that is to say, he sings the part of the woman, angered by chauvinism and bias. It's another strong anthem, and demonstrates both the band's instrumental and lyrical, ahem, "muscle." It doesn't stop there. "Glue Man" is something of a soundscape in itself, its swirling guitars and loose drums the aural backdrop, and features Guy seeming to sing through the desperate eyes of a junkie. Or at least that's where he appears to be singing from. Following this group of songs, the second half seems to be, again, a slight step back after the consistency of the first, but it is strong in its own right as well. Highlights for me included "Margin Walker," with its awesomely offbeat bass line and pounding chorus, and Guy and Ian's sharp vocal riffing, "And the Same," with its rolling bass, splintering guitar-scrapings and the duo of Ian and Guy contrasting high and low pitches beautifully, and "Burning Too" with its apocalyptic feel and truly, dare I say it, "funky" groove in the verse and almost haunting vocal by Guy in the chorus, and a (I'm assuming) bridge that has one of the best chord progressions I've heard.

Like I've described above, Fugazi are a collection of voices, both vocally, lyrically, and instrumentally. Guy and Ian weave vocals and guitars together like silkworms, while Brendan and Joe create the grooves that propel the songs, playing off of the guitars and each other. I suppose words don't do them the proper justice. My honest advice? Buy this.