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Wednesday, Nov 23, 2011
Washington, DC, punk heroes Fugazi called it quits 10 years ago, but the band's legacy as the finest of its generation remains untouched. A Herculean task, sure, but here we go: narrowing down Fugazi's catalog to its finest 10 moments.

It’s been ten years since we last heard from peerless punk legends Fugazi. The Washington, DC, group released its final album, The Argument on October 21st, 2001; a year later, Fugazi announced its indefinite hiatus from making new music and touring. Though the band would be the last to say so, its dissolution marked the end of an era—not only in punk rock, but in the world of rock music, period. Of course, touches of the band’s sound still show up in many of this year’s most celebrated independent acts: the politicized funk of tUnE-yArDs, the barked vocals and taste for anthemics of WU LYF, the floor-tom, power-chord rush of Wild Flag. But there will never be another band quite like Fugazi.


Formed in late 1987, Fugazi came from a storied punk lineage. Ian MacKaye, of hardcore heroes Minor Threat and emocore pioneers Embrace, recruited bassist Joe Lally and (after a brief stint with Colin Sears of Dag Nasty) drummer Brendan Canty for a new, dub-influenced group. Canty had previously played in the short-lived, fast-burning Rites of Spring, a band led by caterwauling vocalist Guy Picciotto. Picciotto soon found a place in this new ensemble, Fugazi, as a backing vocalist. A year later, wanting to be more directly involved in songwriting, Picciotto joined MacKaye as a guitarist, solidifying Fugazi’s line-up.


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Thursday, Nov 17, 2011
The original lineup of one of heavy metal's first and greatest bands has recently announced it had reunited and is heading back into the studio, so now is as good a time as any to dive into the vault and celebrate some essential Black Sabbath offerings from that incarnation.

Yes, the band created the template for heavy metal and thrash, but even now it’s instructive to acknowledge just how unique Black Sabbath was when it first emerged; how different from anything else anyone was doing. It’s not just that the British group created and defined a whole new type of sound (which in turn splintered off into several sub-genres), it’s that they still make most of what came later so soulless and half-assed by comparison. This is not said to diminish the imitators; it’s meant to emphasize how unbelievably excellent and fresh Sabbath’s work still sounds today. The band’s first eight albums are not an embarrassment of riches; they are a debacle of riches, a travesty of riches.


And yet—and this is the larger and often overlooked point—the music this band made was, for the most part, dead serious: from the live-in-the-studio cauldron of blackened blues debut album, to the riff-heard-round-the-world title track from its follow-up Paranoid (both 1970), this was an act with a considerable chip on its shoulder, and few punches were pulled until singer Ozzy Osbourne, muddled and miserable, was asked to leave in ’79. From its eagerness to take on tough-talking politicians who can never quite find the courage to fight in the wars they start (“War Pigs”), to the dangers of hard drugs (“Hand of Doom”), to the pleasures of soft drugs (“Sweet Leaf”), to the ambivalence of drug-induced oblivion (“Snowblind”), to proto-thrash metal (“Hole in the Sky”), to all-encompassing attacks on the system (“Over to You”)—it is ignorant, even a bit hysterical, to dismiss this group as a simplistic one-trick pony.


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Wednesday, Nov 9, 2011
New Order's debut album, Movement, celebrates its 30th birthday this month. To celebrate, we're counting down the classic group's 15 best tracks.

New Order’s debut album, Movement (1981), celebrates its 30th birthday on November 13th, 2011. In its initial 13-year run, the quartet, hailing from Salford, England, and the nearby Manchester-based Factory Records scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, accomplished something typically English and quaint: it changed the face of rock music. Guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris decided to keep making music together after the dissolution of their previous group, post-punk heroes Joy Division, following the 1980 suicide of frontman Ian Curtis. The trio picked up keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and moved Sumner to an uneasy position as lead vocalist, but initially found it difficult to impress the same critics and fans that so adored Joy Division. Movement displays a band still indebted to its former selves, exploring Joy Division’s dark, seething sound without pushing it much forward.


However, the album has aged remarkably well, and critics and fans alike have come to regard it as a classic. By the time New Order released its second record, Power, Corruption & Lies (1983), the band had found its own footing: a largely synth-driven, kick-drum-fueled affair, Power (and the non-album cut that preceded it, “Blue Monday”, which became the best-selling single in 12” format in the UK’s history) gave the group its first real commercial and critical breakthrough. Looking back now, New Order’s sound defines the landscape of 1980s’ popular rock for many ears, its danceable rhythms and quick, clean melodies inspiring a slew of paler imitators then and a new onslaught of dance-punk bands in this past decade.


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Wednesday, Nov 2, 2011
by PopMatters Staff
The Occupy Everything movement continues to grow and build strength. Here are 20 of the highlights from our 2007 protest songs series that remain as relevant as ever and could well be a soundtrack for our times.

Check out the full series, “PopMatters Picks: Say It Loud! 65 Great Protest Songs”.


 
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, 4th Movement (1824)


Whether Beethoven’s adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s poem “Ode to Joy” was actually intended as any sort of protest remains open to debate—the origins of the theory seem to center on an editor’s footnote in a novel called Das Musikfest by Robert Griepenkerl. Still, that Schiller wrote his ode to freedom and subsequently switched it to joy for fear of retribution from a Prussian government that was hardly welcoming to revolutionary thinkers, remains an attractive theory. That Beethoven would choose to incorporate such a text at the same time Metternich’s Carlsbad Decrees were suppressing artists in the German Confederacy certainly seems a bold statement addressing such oppression. The European Union’s 1971 adoption of the work as the European Anthem would seem to take the wind out of the sails of any revolutionary power it once had, but the late ‘80s would resurrect its power as a protest song. “Ode to Joy” was broadcast in Tiananmen Square during the famous protests of 1989 and its performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein at the fall of the Berlin Wall later that year (with “joy” changed to “freedom”— freude to freiheit) reaffirmed the revolutionary power of Beethoven’s masterpiece. Even if Beethoven’s intent was simply to express the wonder of living, the joy he felt at being able to continue composing even though by then he was completely deaf, he would likely be pleased at the powerful meaning ascribed to his magnum opus.—Mike Schiller


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Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011
The Hold Steady's music represents a delightfully perverse amalgamation of the Rolling Stones’ unbridled sexuality, Jack Kerouac’s open-road spirit, and the Replacement’s independent sensibility. No doubt, any of these 10 songs would make a great “gateway drug” for anyone interested in discovering the charms of the group for the first time.

Brooklyn’s the Hold Steady has become one of the hardest working, critically-acclaimed live indie rock bands of the past decide. Its concerts are characterized by frontman Craig Finn’s infectiously energetic delivery style and the band’s magical, classic rock-infused chemistry. The Hold Steady’s music represents a delightfully perverse amalgamation of the Rolling Stones’ unbridled sexuality, Jack Kerouac’s open-road spirit, and the Replacement’s independent sensibility. While the group’s live shows are often venerated to a sacred level above itss five studio LPs, the astonishing performances wouldn’t be possible without a prodigious collection of skillfully constructed songs.


Listed below you will find ten songs that represent the Hold Steady’s straightforward yet contagiously energetic sensibility. Each of these tunes stands out not only as a staple at Hold Steady concerts (with one or two notable exceptions), but also as the most memorable moments in the band’s varied recorded catalog. No doubt, any of these ten songs would make a great “gateway drug” for anyone interested in discovering the charms of the group for the first time. Happy listening!


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