Mar 16, 2009

Diggin' In The Crates "Dischord Classics" Edition

For the past year or so, the venerable Washington DC-based punk/indie label Dischord Records has seen fit to take advantage of the growing renewed popularity in vinyl, combined it with the continuing interest in the substantial back catalog of titles the label has issued since their foundation in December of 1980, and started to have new vinyl masters cut for their releases at Chicago Mastering Service (co-founded and co-owned by Bob Weston of Shellac/Volcano Suns/Mission of Burma fame). This is a title that I nabbed the minute the re-release was announced:

Artist: Embrace
Title: Embrace
Label: Dischord
Vinyl: Clear red vinyl

Embrace (absolutely no relation whatsoever to a more recent band of English vintage) was one of the first "emo" bands, for lack of a better description. The group was founded by Dischord Records co-founder and former Minor Threat lead singer/songwriter Ian MacKaye along with guitarist Michael Hampton, bassist Chris Bald, and drummer Ivor Hanson. Hampton and Hanson had been in State of Alert with Henry Rollins (before Rollins left for California to join Black Flag), and then joined up with Bald and Ian MacKaye's younger brother Alec to form The Faith. Originally, MacKaye wanted to have Jeff Nelson, Dischord's other co-founder and ex-Minor Threat drummer, occupy the drum throne, but business issues (Nelson balked at the idea of playing "free" or benefit shows beyond a certain point in the band's career, which led MacKaye to lament "Jeff, I can't be in a band with you") put the kibosh on that intent. 

So says the liner notes to the excellent and highly recommended 20 Years of Dischord CD box set:
Minor Threat played its final show in September of 1983 and recorded the Salad Days 7" in December. At that point Jeff and Ian had been in 4 different bands together and after a few months of no music, they figured it was time to start working on the next project. 

After a series of different line-ups with Ian playing bass, then guitar, and then singing, and after almost a year of playing, the new band had started taking shape with Chris and Mike (both ex-Faith), However, there were still plenty of unresolved frustrations held over from Minor Threat, and upon further discussion, Ian and Jeff decided that it was probably a better idea to not embark on another band together. Ivor, who had left the Faith to go to college was home on winter break at that time and was asked to play drums. He was up for it and the band agreed to wait for him until he finished the school year.  

The irony of the situation was that Ian ended up singing for the Faith, a band that his brother had sung for, and one that had already gone through a heated break-up. Still, everyone was really eager to be in a band again, especially since there was so much activity surrounding the scene in connection with Revolution Summer, and it was decided to go ahead with the line-up.

Embrace played its first show with Rites of Spring and Gray Matter at Food for Thought in July '85 and managed to play about 15 shows before things came apart. 
The album, compiled from the two separate demo sessions, came out posthumously in 1987. Michael Hampton joined then-ex-Rites of Spring members Guy Picciotto, Brendan Canty and Eddie Janney in the short lived One Last Wish, which would release (after high demand) their lone recording session as the 1986 album in 1999. Chris Bald switched to guitar and joined Ignition with fellow ex-Faith and Ian's brother Alec MacKaye. Ian later joined up with Picciotto, Canty, and bassist Joe Lally to form one of America's greatest contributions to late-20th-Century rock music, Fugazi. 

I first heard this album in 1988 at a band practice. A friend of the guitar player had brought it over and it was playing on the stereo in our practice space, which was the basement level of said guitarist's parent's house. At the time, the album was only available on vinyl. Dischord wouldn't release the title on cassette or CD for a few years yet, and at the time the only titles Dischord were seeing fit to release on CD were all of Minor Threat's output on one CD and the first two Fugazi mini-albums on another CD. We were all blown away by the album, but I was already starting to buy CDs back then and was reluctant to buy vinyl at the time (this, of course, was long before CD burners, USB turntables, laptop recording software, and enclosed download codes in records!). Now, of course, the album is now considered a proto-emo classic.  

According to the excellent history of DC punk and indie music, Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital (itself named after an Embrace song!), "Money" seems to be directed at Jeff Nelson, "Last Song" is said to be inspired by the breakup of Rites of Spring, and "Do Not Consider Yourself Free" and "Said Gun" were said to be directed at the neo-Nazi punks that were causing much trouble at DC punk and indie shows at the time.

The new 2009 reissue comes in clear red vinyl and comes with an exact replica of the original album's lyric insert. 

A highly recommended album, irregardless of the format. 

No comments: