I’m sick of reading the same things about Fugazi, characterizing them as a one-dimensional. Yes, we all know they have never “sold out,” that they changed the face of hardcore, that one in every five persons thinks Ian MacKaye is a hypocrite.
But Fugazi were in constant motion, growing both artistically and philosophically throughout their career. One of the cornerstones of the band was their supposed austerity, exemplified by both their ability to express different moods and sounds without changing or augmenting their basic instrumentation, and their ever-present “question everything/no violence/anti-consumerism” stance. But if their first two EPs and Repeater were propaganda to some — releases that commanded the listener to do or not do certain things — then The Argument was a question mark to all, inviting listeners to hear the band’s point of view and get them to think for themselves.
On the album’s inner sleeve, there’s a picture of a memorial plaque for Sandra Scheuer, victim of the Kent State massacre. The picture reminds us of the price of speaking out against war. Released a mere month after 9/11, the band asks big questions about freedom, protest, and multinational corporations, with the ghost of war lingering throughout, much like it does on the video of them playing “Turnover” on an anti-Iraq demonstration more than 10 years before. But the greatest lesson Fugazi imparted was that punk meant anything was possible, as long as you stay true to your convictions while remaining independently critical. In fact, they taught us by example to the point of ridicule, but one thing no one can deny is that have thus far lived by their own sword.