What really defines a generation? Is it the politics of the day? Is it the pop icons clad on the covers of entertainment rags? Is it the heroic efforts of normal men that make front pages of worldwide newspapers? Or is it the construct of the world’s underground cultures, the ones that exist with out the help or recognition of mainstream entertainment, government or machines of the daily feed?
Rites of Spring, a band that rarely got farther then Washington DC in it’s short tenure recorded a grand total of 17 songs, nearly 15 years ago. They went relatively unnoticed in the eyes of even the smallest of rock critics at the time. During the era of New Wave and arena rock, the Rites of Spring were nothing more than bread crumb on the map of the music universe. But as the myth and legend of Washington DC rock spread, and more people around America got interested in the “Dischord sound” (which does not exist and anyone who tells you differently is an idiot) so did the Rites of Spring.
End on End has been accused of starting the “emo revolution,” but this discography goes beyond the limited scope of yet another “subversive youth movement.” What the Rites of Spring created was volatile and expressive music that was not limited by the scope of the band’s abilities. The guitars are loud, the drums are pounding and the vocals and lyrics are disturbed. They all scream of teen angst to the dying degree. However, it is also the beginning of expansion and craft, an art that DC musicians have been pushing ever since.
There are imperfections all over the album. Timing is off, vocals are strained and the quality leaves a little for the imagination. But where it lacks in shine, it glows in effort. Each song is a terrorizing journey from the creation of the young legends, Brendan Canty (drums), Mike Fellows (bass), Eddie Janney (guitar) and Guy Picciotto (vocals/guitar) that began the basis of modern punk music. Not always fast, almost always understandable, the four boys of this band laid down music that was a reaction to the apathetic times in culture, government and lifestyle. Sometimes slow, sometimes roaring, the music of Rites of Spring resonates with great passion and anger.
You won’t find many people in the punk rock scenes and sub genres that haven’t tasted Rites of Spring. Their influence is apparent and important on many of today’s “underground” bands. Unfortunately they have often been pigeonholed into being the definition of the DC or Dischord sound, and the god fathers of “emo.” But those are just easy excuses in making connections. The Rites of Spring was the birth of a new way of looking at music from a punk rock-based viewpoint. They took the fury and anger and harshness of the movement and attempted to make it into craft. The members later continued down this path and expanded on the ideas first born here. Picciotto and Canty are best known for their work in the ever-important Fugazi. Mike Fellows has made dirty music with Royal Trux and also nailed the best pop drums for Air Miami with Mark Robinson. Eddie Janney has not only produced some of DC’s best music, but is also a member of Girl’s Against Boys, who have melded techno and electronica into rock to create a very unique sonic sound. It’s apparent that The Rites of Spring were a step in a greater path of underground music, but what an important and formative step it was.