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The Argument (Dischord)

"I never, ever had it in my mind that I wanted to be a part of the record industry, because I still contend that the record industry is an insidious affair. It's this terrible collision between art and commerce, and it will always be that way," Fugazi singer/guitarist Ian MacKaye once told The Onion. And true to the spirit of his words, MacKaye and his band have been the torchbearers for true punk in both sound and attitude since the release of their self-titled debut EP in 1988. In 13 years, Fugazi has never wavered from three basic principles: Every show will be all-ages, no show will cost more than $5, and we will never sign a contract with a major label.

The band's refusal to toe the music industry's party line is manifest in The Argument. On its eighth record, Fugazi continues to deliver, in steadfast fashion, its unusually straightforward and propulsive take on politics and social documentation. However, the disc also marks something of a departure from the increasingly abstruse albums the band dropped in the mid-'90s.

It all begins with a static and voice track that transforms into the swinging bass line and intermittent explosions of "Cashout." The cockles of longtime Fugazi fans will then be warmed by the punk ballast of "Full Disclosure." All teeth-gnashing aside, The Argument also reveals the band's sonic breadth to be almost as unbounded as its idealism. This is made evident in the more melodic, tempered sound of tracks like "The Kill," which opens with a lush, reverberating guitar, then slowly meanders into a jazzy verse where MacKaye sings, "Born into race and nation/Accept family and obligation/I'm not a citizen." Indeed, he isn't. After swimming against the current of the music business for over a decade, MacKaye still refuses to salute the flag that flies over corporate rock. And for that, he deserves his own pledge of allegiance.

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