I just threw on Fugazi’s 1991 album “Steady Diet of Nothing” (their second studio album). Another record I picked up in Chicago, this time at Permanent Records. Apparently the album title was taken from a line from the late Bill Hicks, who’s comedic material reflected Fugazi’s musical philosophy (or the other way around). As a footnote, Bill Hicks appeared as a character in the Garth Ennis controversial comic “Preacher”.
Exit Only (this is three minute access) – The moment the introduction feedback hits, and it’s right off the bat, anyone with a taste for noise is hooked to this record. There’s something very bold about naming the first song off your album “Exit Only”. But like the end/last line of American Psycho, “this is not an exit”. It’s only just the beginning. Some cool guitar riffing going on here between the lead and rhythm, good dynamic there.
Reclamation (no one here is asking) - The lead guitar of the second track really highlights this song, and takes it to another level beyond dark rhythmic Rock. In fact, the lead guitar on this song perhaps exemplifies what bands like Fugazi, the Pixies, etc were all about. It’s sloppy, it’s repetitive, it’s awesome. Another aptly titled track when taken in context of the industry at the time of release. These bands were reclaiming Rock & Roll from the excessive shit which had taken it over for the past decade.
Nice New Outfit (sorry about the mess) – “In your nice new outfit… Sorry about the mess.” This song employs a remarkable loud-quiet-loud dynamic (which was popularized by a little band called Nirvana). This time around the lead guitar is spot on, rhythmically and dynamically, which is a nice contrast from the second song of the album.
Stacks (language keeps me locked & repeating) – Ahh… one of the more relaxing songs on the album (if that’s possible). I’m not quite sure what “stacks” he’s referring to. The first line to the coda is “America is just a word but I use it”. Which, towards the end, repeats as “but I use it. But I use it. But I use it”. Some interesting symbolism going on there, and I get the feeling that line is MUCH more patriotic than anyone would imagine. Especially considering the band’s “do it yourself” (DIY) attitude. This song also uses some creative production techniques by a little bit of sampling.
Latin Roots (it’s time to meet your maker) – Holy cow this song is HEAVY. Back in 91, 92, I’d venture to guess this song was a favorite for slam dancing and body surfing (well, what Fugazi wasn’t, you schmuck??). Another title which, when taken in context, could refer to the end of what Rock & Roll in the 80′s meant.
Steady Diet (there are no words) – Wow, the tricky tinkering work of the guitars on this song is heaven on the ears. And yes, the subtitle is “there are no words” because this is an instrumental track. A great idea, by the way, to have your instrumental track off an album be wordless. This would be a fun one to cover and just jam out, I’d think.
Long Division (I’m not your reason to crack & divide) – A wonderful transition here from “Steady Diet” to “Long Division”, which also just happens to be the Side One/Side Two change-over point. Here, we’re treated to a fade in of the noise from the instrumental track. It builds to a climax and stops abruptly to a smooth base-line and an introduction to the 7th song on the album. This song features CLEAN guitars, shockingly, and it’s perhaps the most pleasing to the ears (not that “unpleasing” is bad) on the album.
Runaway Return (out of the ashtray, into the ashtray) – The lyrics, especially in combination with the riffs, of this song are very powerful. They finally take on that Descendents-y quality about the working man American phenomenon. Honestly, this song wouldn’t be out of place on the “Office Space” soundtrack. “There’s nothing waiting, there’s nothing given. Weekender gives in, puts on his working suit”.
Polish (this is your portion, please don’t share) – If any song on the album has shades of Metal, it’s “Polish”. The guitar riffs are dark dark dark. With rests, bends on the low registers, dissonant power chords, and Metal type beats. With that said, when the band finally comes full circle towards the middle of the song, it turns into a Metal-ish version of screamy yet melodic, dirtied, Rock music Fugazi plays. “Please don’t share”?? Really? Okay. I’ll keep this album to myself, mostly.
Dear Justice Letter (your sorry lungs are leaking) – The opening line of this song refers to the Eisenhower appointed Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr. Here Fugazi shows their Sociopolitical-Punk side at an early stage of their career, remember this is album number 2. But with quotes like “it’s not your fault”, and with Brennen’s philosophical leanings on individual rights against the state and “often favoring criminal defendants, minorities, the poor, and other underrepresented groups”, perhaps this song was more a tribute to the band than anything. I suppose only Ian MacKaye will ever know for sure.
KYEO (silence is a dangerous sound) – That it is. The last track on the album is one filled with irony. “Just be quiet tonight” sung by one of the loudest bands of their time, of any time (though they’ve still got nothing on the MC5). More interesting guitar tinkering towards the breakdown, which takes off into a full on assault in the albums final moments. That’s that.