Release Date: Nov 18, 2014
Record label: Dischord Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Post-Hardcore, Indie Rock, American Underground
Having initially envisaged this post-Minor Threat project as a three-piece, Ian MacKaye recruited bassist Joe Lally and former Rites Of Spring drummer Brendan Canty early in 1987. Eventually christened Fugazi (from Mark Baker’s book ’Nam), the trio made their live debut at Washington, DC’s Wilson Center in September ’87, just prior to enlisting Canty’s Rites Of Spring bandmate Guy Picciotto as a vocal foil for MacKaye. Still only 10 gigs old, the fledgling quartet quickly recorded the 11-track First Demo at engineer Don Zientara’s DC-based Inner Ear studio in January 1988.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. When Fugazi checked out into their "indefinite hiatus" (they are the definitive example of that tag) in 2002 following their best album to date in the form of The Argument, they left us as we found them - fully formed, vision intact and the band who never sold out, never compromised their morals. The interest and fuss around the release of First Demo is no doubt down to a combination of the above; there are few bands who departed the scene just as they dropped their best work but that's what Ian MacKaye, Guy Picciotto, Joe Lally and Brendan Canty did following a tour in support of The Argument, to go and spend more time with their families and focus on projects that wouldn't take up quite so much time as Fugazi - along with Dischord Records - obviously did.
“I am a patient boy. I wait, I wait, I wait I wait”. The words to Fugazi‘s Waiting Room will resonate with those who have been clutching at straws and hoping that the band’s decade long “indefinite hiatus” might come to an end. As it stands, Fugazi may never play or record as a band again, but there’s still plenty of archive material making its way out.
Is there such a thing as a perfect rock band? The Beatles would seem to fit that bill, and you won’t get much of an argument from me. But on a smaller scale, Fugazi did a good job of flirting with perfection themselves. Over the course of 15 years and seven records, everything the DC post-hardcore outfit put out was positively top shelf. You can search high and low for another band that coupled such consistent excellence with unflinching integrity, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one.
It’s always been kind of hilarious that Ian MacKaye’s first recorded declaration as Fugazi’s frontman was "I am a patient boy. " In both a literal and figurative sense, MacKaye’s early career was defined by restlessness, whether setting land-speed records for early '80s hardcore in Minor Threat or swiftly shifting gears into the anthemic proto-emo of Embrace. But from the first notes of Joe Lally’s circular bass riff, "Waiting Room"—the opening song on 1988’s debut self-titled EP—instantly asserted Fugazi as something markedly different than their D.
There aren’t many bands that could honestly lay claim to being able to spark a frenzy simply with the news that they’re releasing their first-ever demo. Most bands, though, aren’t in possession of a back catalogue as consistent in its excellence as Fugazi’s, and so notorious is Ian MacKaye in terms of his penchant for perfectionism that you realise he wouldn’t put anything out - let alone his band’s first ever proper demo tape - unless he was utterly convinced of its virtues and its values to the group’s fanbase. The story behind the record is simple; after roughly a year of playing live together, the band felt ready to put something - anything - down on tape.
It’s difficult, and maybe impossible, to overstate just how sorely missed Fugazi is in 2015. The quartet’s DIY ethics, all-ages stipulations, and $5 tickets have hardened into legend, though its music—bracing, intelligent, idiosyncratic—hardly warrants afterthought status. In foresight, the group’s discography resembles that of rock’s greatest runs, nearly every record more thoughtful, more astonishing than the last.
For a certain generation of punk rock fan, Fugazi weren’t so much a band as a belief system. The Washington DC band’s lean, righteous rocking was bound inextricably to their ethical stance, which preached social justice, sobriety and independence. Since going on hiatus in 2003, frontman Ian MacKaye has disinterred some 900 Fugazi live sets, but ‘First Demo’ is the first archival release to turn to the band’s studio stash.
In 1988, the then fresh-faced and freshly formed Fugazi recorded their first demo with Don Zientara, who has engineered pretty much everything from the D. C. post-hardcore outfit.