Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., Jan. 18, 2002
FugaziThe Argument (Dischord) Punk rock is a formula. All the greats (Pistols, Ramones, Minor Threat) put out just one album, usually multiple times. The formula got stale a long time ago. Born out of the ashes of Minor Threat and the D.C. hardcore scene, Fugazi has served notice of punk's obsolescence on a regular basis ever since they banged out the unforgettable first notes of "Waiting Room" back in 1988. Carrying on the true punk spirit with their all-ages $5 shows and power-to-the-plebians doctrine, their music routinely steps outside punk's narrow confines. The Argument is the first outing for the Dischord flagship band since '98's End Hits, and offers substantial improvement over that LP's uneven sonic experimentation. End Hits and its predecessor Red Medicine had their moments, but inconsistency kept them from occupying the same hallowed class as Repeater or Steady Diet of Nothing. They've corrected that flaw on The Argument. Midtempo cuts like "The Kill," featuring Joe Lally's first successful vocal turn, and Guy Piciotto's soothing, piano-laden "Strangelight" succeed where the more willfully arty cuts on End Hits fell flat. The Argument peaks early on "Epic Problem," which is vintage Ian Mackaye, and "Full Disclosure," featuring a standout vocal performance by Piciotto in a career full of them. The chorus is maybe the most melodic thing Fugazi's ever done, with rare outside guests augmenting Piciotto's soaring melody, a much-needed release from the singer's teeth-clenching cries. D.C. gets it right for once.