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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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
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
He never thought he'd be an Exclamation point A demonstration of his disease A punctuation mark A household name with HIV
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.
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
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!
Here are some new(ish) releases I’ve been listening to and enjoying:
- Post Junkie Selfish Millennial Single Father Field Notes by downtalker
- s/t by Pile of Love
- Scenic Drive (The Tape) by Khalid
- Head of Roses by Flock of Dimes
- Richer Than I Ever Been by Rick Ross
- Dawn FM by The Weeknd
- Traveling by Rid of Me
- For a Birds Eye View by Cordae (potential album of the year shit, right here!)
- Sick! by Earl Sweatshirt
- Painless by Nilufer Yanya
- Your Neighbors are Failures by Bitter Branches
- Things Are Great by Band of Horses
(This issue took so long, some of these are actually older now!)
And some older releases that have made it (back) into regular rotation:
- My Life is Over and All Roads Lead to the Gun I & All Roads Lead to the Gun II by Militarie Gun
- Asymmetry and s/t EP by Cuffed Up
- Hunger for a Way Out by Sweeping Promises
- Let it Be by The Beatles
- Knocking the Skill Level by Garden Variety
- United by Fate by Rival Schools
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)
Musical Moving Pictures
- Chorus.fm’s Staff “Best of 2021” lists
- Stereogum’s Best of 2021
- My favorite record from 2021 (still haven’t seen Ian Sweet on ANY list, which blows my mind)
Thanks for reading this issue of One Last Wish! Next issue we’ll see you in 1994.