Various Artists

20 Years of Dischord

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A Dischord box set? It may seem like an oddity to many who know little about the label, but when you think about it, it makes absolutely perfect sense. Many of the D.C. bands were and are known for amazing live shows, blowing most "punk" bands out of the water. Unfortunately, given these bands' tendency to break up after a year or so, those in the other parts of the country and the world couldn't necessarily make it down to the 9:30 club to check out Severin or Soul Side -- hence, the existence of Dischord as a label. Initially started just to document one band (the Teen Idles), it has served to document the ever-growing musical family that has come to represent some of the best music Washington D.C. has to offer. And now, after 20 years, a compilation comes along (each band is represented with one song on the first two discs) that is not only beautifully laid out, but an absolute necessity for fans of either the label as a whole or just one or two bands. On the first two discs, the progression of the label is spelled out chronologically, beginning with the rapid-fire hardcore that D.C. bands like Minor Threat, Government Issue, and Faith used to establish the scene in the early '80s. Around track 16 or so, the whole thing explodes. Bands no longer take the faster-then-hell approach, and more melodies and complexities take over. While many of the people here appear in many different bands, there was an obvious concerted effort to keep pushing things past the confines of what constituted "punk," including the supposed birth of emocore (Embrace, Rites of Spring), the blend of personal issues with politics of the Nation of Ulysses and Fugazi, the power pop of High-Back Chairs, or the monster surf punk of Slant 6. The third disc, made up entirely of rare and unreleased tracks moves in much the same order but tends to be a bit heavier on the "hardcore" side. If this isn't your cup of tea, it is more than made up for by rare tracks by Shudder to Think and the brilliant "Word" by Fugazi. (Not to mention an extremely old interview with Ian and co. from way back when and vintage live footage of some of the original hardcore bands on the scene.) There are moments on the box that may throw people for a loop, musically. But the fascinating part is hearing the progression of the scene from a high-octane hardcore hotbed to a more arty, experimental, and wide-ranging purely musical scene. Listeners will have an interesting time trying to peg down just when that shift occurred. Was it Rites of Spring? Beefeater? Shudder to Think? It's important to note too that not every moment/song/band is going to touch people. Fans of the early work the label released will probably not go crazy for High-Back Chairs, and Autoclave fans may not dig S.O.A., but that's missing the point. And the point is? The point is that Dischord is a label devoted to documenting music, not supplying it with an image or a marketing strategy. And this collection is the ultimate proof. [The set also contains an amazing book that contains photos, essays, descriptions of the whens, whys, and hows of each band and song as well as a pictorial discography.]

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