When we asked Californian post-hardcore crew Less Art to pick their favourite band they’d like to talk about, they instantly came back with Fugazi. The seminal DC punks are the dictionary description of DIY, and have influenced just about every hardcore and post-hardcore band you care to mention. Releasing six albums across ten years, and cementing their legacy in the process, few can argue Fugazi’s credentials as punk pioneers who pushed boundaries and gave two fingers to everything considered conformist in a stagnant music industry.
But which songs really stand out amongst the wealth of Grade-A material Fugazi left behind? Less Art think they know the answer, and when tasked with picking their top ten, they managed to go one further because guitarist Jon Howell couldn’t make his mind up between a run of three on 1993’s In On The Kill Taker. We’ll let it slide, though.
Here are the Less Art’s 10 favourite Fugazi songs of all time!
Ed Breckenridge (guitar): “It’s funny, Fugazi’s energy and dynamic is so much a part of what makes me love the band, but this song is one of my favourites. They can do so much, so right. Joe’s Dylan-esque mellow vocals, the simple yet ‘just right’ bass and drum groove, with that delicate delayed guitar, crushes me just as much as their most aggressive and angsty tunes.”
Shut The Door
Mike Minnick (vocals): “This song is so intense. The album version is great, but I prefer the live version on the Instrument documentary. It’s an amazing performance. The loud parts are enormous and the quiet parts are perfectly quiet. They use the silence of the spaces between the parts as effectively as the distortion of the guitars and the groove of the drums and the bass. It’s controlled chaos. The song could be a 24-hour track and I wouldn’t get sick of it. I could listen to it on loop forever.”
Ian Miller (bass): “This is the first time I ever heard a man singing from the perspective of a woman, or singing so virulently about misogyny and sexual violence. All these years later, it’s still striking and courageous.”
Riley Breckenridge (drums): “There’s a hypnotic nature to almost everything about this song that has been so lasting on me – the rolling drum beat, the bass line, the vocals, the guitars. I’m not sure if it’s because it feels kinda like an outlier in the grander picture of Fugazi, or because I used to play along to it on drums and get lost in the loop, but this song just does it for me.”
Rend It/23 Beats Off/Sweet and Low
Jon Howell (guitar): “These songs run consecutively on the album In On The Kill Taker and listened to as a whole it’s some of my favourite music ever recorded. Each song is beautiful and cathartic, but also hooky and concise. Rend It is a scorching love song with a perfect chorus while 23 Beats Off is a dissonant sonic monument to death and remembrance. Both demonstrate that with good songwriting, you can pack the emotional heft of a sprawling epic into less than four-minutes. Since the previous two songs are sung by Guy (Picciotto) and Ian (MacKaye), I like to think of Sweet And Low, an instrumental, as belonging to Brendan (Canty, drums) and Joe (Lally, bass). The rhythm section creates a mood that’s intricate and subtle yet somehow achingly beautiful, which generally speaking, is something Fugazi did better than any of their peers. Better than most bands actually. Their music wasn’t just aggressive or political or punk rock; it was compelling and important in a way that few modern artists can match.”
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Ed: “No Surprise hits everything I love about Fugazi. Guy’s vocal intensity, weaving guitar lines, unique bass and drum grooves. It’s chunky, visceral, and epic. The guitar riff in the verses is one of my favourite Fugazi guitar parts of all time. I love the way it almost falls apart when it returns before the second verse. Also, that descending guitar lick out of chorus with that lyric ‘We’re destabilised’ just explodes my brain, heart and face. Their ability to orchestrate songs and capture intensity in their performances is unbelievable.”
Mike: “This weird and powerful opening track is a perfect little song. The intricate guitars, the locomotive rhythm of the drums pushing forward. The hypnotic bass line layered over the top. But most of all, it’s about the lyrics. They destroy me: ‘Can’t ask for more, so why unfulfilled, we take apart, everything we build, had it right here, now it’s gone, on and on, break.’”
Ian: “If I had to play one song for someone who’d never heard Fugazi, it would be Greed. It’s ferocious, immediate, and metrically weird/early Fugazi at their Fugaziest. And those ship’s bell dings are so damn satisfying.”
Riley: “I can’t get enough of how deep the pocket is in the drum groove in the verses, and love the ultra-heavy-yet-clean bass tones filling that section out. Then that massive chorus just explodes out of the verse, and they cap it off with a ridiculously cathartic outro and it makes me want to run through a goddamn wall! Such a killer song.”
Less Art’s debut album Strangled Light is out July 28 via Gilead Media, and is available to pre-order from Amazon UK. Listen to their latest single Wandering Ghost now.