13 Songs


Dischord, 1990


REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Fugazi's integrity is oftentimes mentioned more than the band's music. They continue to record on Dischord's label. Admission to their concerts is dirt cheap. And when Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder started to get freaked out with multi-platinum success, he went to Ian MacKaye to get a head check.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It's almost like a percentage of Fugazi's fans listen to their music as a statement of principle rather than professing any admiration of the music. Fear not, Fugazi has made plenty of quality albums. 13 Songs, the album that introduced them to a mass audience, almost single-handedly guaranteed punk would have a future in the late '80s through the '90s.

"Yes I know this is politically correct / But it comes to you spiritually direct / An attempt to thoughtfully affect / Your way of thinking," MacKaye sings on "And The Same." This was written almost the same time that "politically correct" began circulating in the academic circles -- about five years before mainstream America began to tire of the term. The song sets the tone for 13 Songs: honest, sincere and more than a little self-righteous.

Screw it though. If you're going to be ambitious, you're going to be perceived as self-righteous, elitist or self-absorbed. And even though Fugazi's sound isn't the most original or even ambitious sound in punk rock, their style seems effortless. "Provisional" and "Waiting Room" seem like 'punk' anthems, even the only thing that truly qualifies as 'punk' sound is the time limits (both fall under three minutes).

Most of the targets on 13 Songs are vague; the establishment, apathy, the prison system. A song that appears to be anti-drug ("Waiting Room") could just as easily be about post-college degree anxiety. MacKaye doesn't claim to have the answers as he sings in "Promises": "Stupid f**king words/ They tangle us in our desires." 13 Songs may not be as important as other punk landmarks, but it caused a lot of punk fans to breath easier in the late '80s. A stabilizing force was now in the punk scene.

Rating: A-

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© 2005 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dischord, and is used for informational purposes only.