Fugazi: End Hits

Fugazi
End Hits
Dischord

THE DOUBLE ENTENDRE in the album title and the news that there will be no extensive tour indicate that End Hits might be Fugazi's spectacular swan song. But the folks at Dischord tell us the band is merely tending to family obligations, choosing the ominous title "just to fuck with people." I'm not so sure. Recorded in two sessions over six months apart, this album about breakups and reconciliation, about finding one's place and losing it, is the band's most relaxed work to date. It might be the perfect last word from four guys who've grown up through punk together, and who probably won't "officially" disband any time soon, if ever.

But career capper or not, every new Fugazi album forces listeners to take stock. On their best songs, the band collapses themselves, their audience, and the world outside into a single resonant metaphor: the waiting room, the alarm clock, the long-distance runner. Despite the band's reputation for a style of interrogative j'accuse rock, Fugazi's songs are meditative and conversational, not the screeds detractors take them for. If the band brings up topics like the meaning of success in a corporate culture, it's because they really think about those things, like Jon Spencer thinks about mohair or big belt buckles. End Hits even finds Fugazi altering their usage of the most important word in punk's lexicon: "you." The hostile "you"s of old--the consumerists, the narcs, the bad mouths--have been replaced here by heroic illegal immigrants (on "Place Position" and "Recap Modotti"), lovers and partners ("F/D" and "Pink Frosty"), and potential allies ("Foreman's Dog"). Fugazi are beginning to sound like those contemplative older brothers of rap, A Tribe Called Quest.

Fans will complain that End Hits has two tepid songs at its center ("Closed Captioned" and "Floating Boy"), but you'll forgive more than that after the opening, "Break," a Fugazified funk number with a characteristically precise guitar riff that cuts like a diamond saw. If every post-mohawk band from Giants Chair to Pearl Jam (yes, Pearl Jam) has dabbed their brush into guitarist Ian MacKaye's sound palette, "Break" should make it clear they're still playing catch-up. The mournful lyric (sung by MacKaye) talks about taking apart "everything we build," sung to a jazzy, Zappa-sounding melody that would never have occurred to Wire, Fugazi's musical and ethical forebears. Meanwhile, Guy Picciotto's charmingly bad poetry (which hasn't influenced anyone, as far as I know) is still sexy and convincing, especially on "No Surprise"--"Critique and salve me, baby," indeed. Critique them, salve them, but listen to them. You might not get another chance.

 
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