I hope you find your niche someday soon

1993 was another good year for music, with Nirvana’s In Utero, Radiohead’s Pablo Honey, The Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream, and A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker, Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space), The Breeders’ Last Splash, Dinosaur Jr.’s’ Where You Been, Sepultura’s Chaos A.D., Archers of Loaf’s Icky Mettle, Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head, Quicksand’s Slip, Bad Religion’s Recipe for Hate, and The Posies’ Frosting on the Beater – and I’m sure there are more I am missing!

All of these albums had a big impact on my musical taste, interests, and listening habits – though I’ll have to go with Fugazi and Quicksand as my selections to focus on this month. Just like last issue, I’ll include some brief words on a few other important albums – some of these are just too good to pass over completely.

Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker (Listen) and Quicksand’s Slip (Listen) are both post-hardcore masterpieces. Both records acted as gateways into the world of hardcore for me – charting the course for some of the biggest changes in my life. (Even more on that in future issues!)

Fugazi led to their back catalog and all of the Dischord record label, while Quicksand led to Gorilla Biscuits, NY hardcore, and Revelation Records. To say that was life changing is an understatement.

Slip by Quicksand

Quicksand formed in 1990 with Walter Schreifels on guitar and vocals, Tom Capone on guitar, Sergio Vega on bass, and Alan Cage on drums. Schreifels was also in Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today, two of the biggest hardcore bands of the period. Capone spent time in Beyond and Bold. Cage played with Burn and Beyond. Vega played with Collapse and Absolution. A hardcore super group, no doubt.

Quicksand put out a 4-song EP on Revelation Records that year, which included three songs that would later appear on their first full length, Slip. That full length was released three years later on Polydor - a major label - which at the time was generally a controversial subject in underground music.

The album itself is amazing from start to finish. Every single song is good. Heavy, groove based riffs and a top notch bass/drum combo – the musicianship and song writing helped set Quicksand apart from the very beginning. Lyrically, Quicksand tends to focus on the personal: conflict, relationships, and identity. In many ways, it was a more refined and mature approach to classic hardcore song topics.

Let’s dive into some of my favorite songs on the album…

Fazer

What a way to start the album with drums kicking into a heavy groove. It immediately grabs your attention.

The lyrics of this song spoke to me because I felt out of place and awkward as a teenager - like most young people that find hardcore, punk, or some alternative means or outlet for creativity and expression. We’re looking for someplace to fit in and find others in a similar place.

Needing to find something
Is everything ok
I hope you find your niche, someday soon
Easy to change your phase
To move from where you stand
But you got to keep that face
Each change you plan

Wonder
Is everything ok
The problem is hesitation

And as an introvert, “the problem is hesitation” rang completely true and that led to a lot of second guessing.

Dine Alone

For me this song is about knowing and believing yourself – rejecting the societal pressure to fit in.

It's a cinch
To, pass the time with you
But hard to pass the time alone
Can you take it
And it's true
True, the couple next to you think you look strange
Alone, what are your aims
Or do you have any

Even this line: “No, I always go out eating with my best friends.” - can mean both knowing who your friends are and feeling comfortable with yourself - so even when you are alone, you are with a friend.

Unfullfilled

This is my favorite song on the album. Lyrically the entire song focuses on disappointment and regret:

Things you love but did not get
And all the times you've been upset by
Unfulfilled dreams and visions
And the guilt for your wrong decisions

But Walter ends it with some great advice:

Time to reach out for what's real,
It's easy to miss, insist,
That you shouldn't always follow the first thing you feel.

The first thing you feel when you miss out on something or make the wrong choice is always disappointment. What you do after that is always the most important.

Omission

This song is about the stories we tell ourselves to avoid pain and sadness – to the point of not even recognizing yourself.

I, said
Why do I always have to spell it out for you?
Our story is always changing
We change it to hide the pain
And when the truth rears
Its ugly head, it's all too late
Too late for the omission
That you kept inside and wished it wasn't you

More from Quicksand

I’ve seen Quicksand probably five times and they’ve always been an amazing live band. Here’s a set from 2017 after they re-united as a 3-piece:


In on the Kill Taker by Fugazi

Fugazi is my all-time favorite band and I have this album to thank. Steady Diet of Nothing was actually my first introduction to the band, but I just couldn’t get into it at the time – it sounded almost industrial to my ears. (I like it now, by the way!)

In on the Kill Taker was the album that broke Fugazi into the “mainstream” in a sense that it hit at the same time bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and others were redefining alternative music and creating fans all over the world.

Fugazi was formed in 1986 by Ian MacKaye (guitar, vocal - who was also in Minor Threat and Embrace), Joe Lally (bass), and Colin Sears (drums - who was also in Dag Nasty). Shortly after forming, Sears left to return to Dag Nasty and Brandan Canty (a member of Rites of Spring) replaced him on drums in 1987. Guy Picciotto (guitar, vocals - member of Rites of Spring and One Last Wish) would initially sing with them at early shows before officially joining the band in 1988.

Beyond their music, Fugazi was also famous for their business practices – releasing their own music, $5 shows, $10 albums, no other merchandise like t-shirts, and a staunch DIY work ethic. In reality, much of that came from the punk and hardcore scenes – they just were the face of a whole world that mainstream music fans weren’t aware of at the time.

The combination of this DIY work ethic and the political/social justice messaging in their lyrics won me over as a fan. Behind that, the angular guitar riffs, the reggae/dub influenced bass, and one of the best rock drummers of all time combined to make some of the most unique and creative punk music ever.

Let’s dive into some highlights from my favorite songs on the album…

Facet Squared

This song is about ugly nationalism – like patriotism used by default to cover for not even considering the impact of our country’s past/present actions or having a real solution to a present problem.

Pride no longer has definition  
Everybody wears it, it always fits  
A state invoked for the lack of position

Or this ending section, which I could read as either being so invested in the patriotism that we blindly follow along OR potentially the business investment in building a false image of our country that keeps us divided. Either one fits.

It's not worth, it's the investment
That keeps us tied up in all these strings
We draw lines and stand behind them
That's why flags are such ugly things
They should never
Touch the ground

Public Witness Program

This song takes on special importance in 2022, with the horrible laws passed in states like Texas, Idaho, Florida and others that encourage people to turn in already marginalized people in the LGBTQ+ community.

The eyes have it and the eyes always will  
The eyes have it and they're watching you still  
You'll see, you'll see tonight  
I'll be watching cause I want you tonight  
All right

I have a feeling the song was originally about undercover cops and other law enforcement agents that have historically infiltrated activist groups in the past.

Returning the Screw

This song seems to be about backstabbing someone and then hiding behind “humor”. The chorus seems to contemplate revenge. The phrase “turn the screw” generally refers to doing something to someone in order to force them into action – “re-turning the screw” would be reversing that back on the orginal party.

Fine disservice
Intended, too
Check for the sender
Sender was you

The point has been recorded
The malice has been revealed
When I stripped away the humour
From the arrow that it concealed

Smallpox Champion

This song is clearly about the U.S. government’s actions to spread disease amongst the Native American tribes as we expanded our footprint on the continent.

Smallpox Champion U S of A  
Give natives some blankets warm like the grave  
This is the pattern cut from the cloth  
This is the pattern designed to take you right out  
Right out, right out, right out, right out, right out  
Right out, right out, right out, right out, right out, right out

and

Bury your heart U S of A
History rears up to spit in your face
You saw what you wanted, you took what you saw
We know how you got it, your method equals wipe out
Wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out
Wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out, wipe out

23 Beats Off

There are a number of theories about the subject of this song, but I am in the camp of it being about Magic Johnson and HIV. Let’s look at the lyrics:

A name  
I recognise that name  
It was at the center  
Of some ticker tape parade

Championship teams have ticker tape parades (the Lakers won in 1987 and 1988 - just 3 years prior to Magic’s announcement and Magic was on the 1992 Olympic team that won a gold medal - after his announcement) and Magic was certainly a household name:

A name
I recognise that name
It was at the center
Of some magnifying glass

A classic sports trope/cliche is “going to war” and “battling” the other team:

He used to pretend
He was fighting some war somewhere
Now everything depends
On fighting some war

And finally:

He never thought he'd be an
Exclamation point
A demonstration of his disease
A punctuation mark
A household name with HIV

Cassavetes

Fugazi’s homage to Cassavetes is basically related to the directors’ DIY ethics, something the band always fully embraced – not only as a band, but for the record label their founder created, Dischord. Similarly, Cassavetes also formed a distribution company for his movies, Faces International. via Genius.com

In the lyrics:

Complete control, for Cassavetes
If it's not for sale you can't buy it - buy it
Sad-eyed mogul reaching for your wallet
Like hand to holster why don't you try it - try it

Great Cop

A song about betrayal and distrust:

Got a lot of questions for me
You got a lot of questions for me
Got your finger pointing at me

Distrusted
I look for wires when I'm talking to you
Distrusted
I look for wires when I'm talking to...
You'd make a great cop
Said you'd make a great cop
Said you'd make a great cop, you pig

Other Quick Highlights from 1993

Digable Planets’ Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (Listen) and A Tribe Called Quest Midnight Marauders (Listen)

Musically not too far apart with jazz and bebop based beats and loops. Digable Planets had the added layer of jazz influenced lyrics and style, which ATCQ were master storytellers and lyricists. These two albums were the soundtrack to my time on the high school track team. They were top notch to listen to while running. Both groups are still very high on my list of favorite hip hop artists.

The Posies’ *Frosting on the Beater* (Listen) and The Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream (Listen)

I wore these two tapes out on a family trip out west in the summer of 1993 – in fact I bought the Siamese Dream tape in Bozeman, Montana before we headed south to Yellowstone National Park.

I was exposed to The Posies through listening to a great Canadian alternative radio station (102.1 CFNY-FM), particularly Alan Cross’ radio show “The Ongoing History of New Music” and George Strombo. That station was my introduction to Sloan, Tragically Hip, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Doughboys, and many other alt-rock bands I would quickly love. I also honed my ‘quickly hit record on the tape deck’ skills listening to this station!


Totally Digging

Here are some new(ish) releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:

(This issue took so long, some of these are actually older now!)

And some older releases that have made it (back) into regular rotation:

Follow me on Last.fm to see more.

I also have two 2022 playlists up on Apple Music:

  • Best of 2022 (newly released songs I’m digging)
  • 2022/365 (which is a song-a-day project I’m doing this year)

Enjoy.


Musical Moving Pictures

Cuffed Up - Live on KEXP

Militarie Gun - Live in Chicago

Wet Leg - Tiny Desk Concert

Olivia Rodrigo - Tiny Desk Concert

Mannequin Pussy - Live in Philly

Farside - Into the Studio - documentary on the making of The Monroe Doctrine

Weakened Friends - Live in Allston, MA

One Step Closer - album release show

Turnstile - Glow On record release show

Cordae - Tiny Desk Concert


Elsewhere


Thanks for reading this issue of One Last Wish! Next issue we’ll see you in 1994.

– Jason

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One Last Wish is a modern day zine — an email newsletter. It’s a music-focused love letter to my past, present, and future self. Back in the 90s I was into making zines about the hardcore music scene. Today, email newsletters are filling that void. I’d love to do all that again, so here we are…

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