Unsung Classics, Part 3
Hands up who’s heard of Rites of Spring? And I mean the band, not the riot-inducing Stravinsky ballet. No-one? Not to worry; unless you have a near-obsessive interest in the […]
Hands up who’s heard of Rites of Spring? And I mean the band, not the riot-inducing Stravinsky ballet. No-one? Not to worry; unless you have a near-obsessive interest in the 80’s Washington D.C hardcore punk scene, their name is unlikely to register. But bear with me, as this week I will be covering:
End On End by Rites of Spring, 1991, Dischord Records.
I will add that this is technically not an album, as such, as it is comprised of two; Rites’ first full length, and their final EP, titled ‘All Through A Life’.
Fronted by the extraordinarily charismatic Guy Picciotto, who later ended up in the legendary post-hardcore quartet Fugazi, Rites of Spring were one of those bands that are not especially well known, but the moment you listen to their music, their impact and relevance is utterly clear. They are often cited as the progenitors of ‘emo’, a genre which, as far as I am concerned, does not exist – but that is another story. Instead of raging against authority, or other such arbiters of malcontent, Rites focused the anger on the self, on emotion and the human psyche, in a wholly original and inimitable style.
End On End seems just as fresh and vital today as it did back then. Instead of merely cleaving close to the loud-fast-aggressive rules of hardcore punk, Rites of Spring strode outside its borders, with enlivened, clattering rhythms and guitars that possessed an undeniable sense of melody while being just as visceral and hard-charging as any hardcore group at the time. Guy Picciotto’s vocal work on this album is undoubtedly some of the most genuinely passionate and gut-wrenching singing ever committed to tape. He takes to the microphone like Thich Quang Duc did to his entire body; the raw emotion practically explodes out of his larynx like a cannon blast.
Memorable lyrics are in abundance; on ‘Remainder’, Picciotto excoriates those who play the emotional card in their music purely for the sake of it, and in the same breath brilliantly lampoons those solipsistic bands who have been described as ‘emo’ in recent years; “The answer lies in a real emotion / Not in the self-indulgence of a self-devotion.” On ‘Deeper Than Inside’, he commits his feral howl to one of the best vocal refrains I have ever heard; “The world is my fuse!” ‘Spring’ brilliantly takes the usual musical theme of nostalgia and gives it a new depth with his sparkling lyrics; “Caught in times so far away / From where our hearts really wanted to be / Reaching out to find a way / To get back to where we’d been.”
End On End is one of those albums that, even if you may not like it, deserves to be appreciated for its bravery and willingness to challenge the conventions of contemporary hardcore. And it goes without saying that it’s absolutely brilliant. Give it a try, and see if you get blown away by what is truly emotional music.