The Argument is the sixth studio album from the post-hardcore band Fugazi released on October 16, 2001 through Dischord Records. It was recorded at Don Zientara's Inner Ear Studios in Arlington, VA and the Dischord House between January and April 2001. Upon release it was met with critical and commercial success. It is the band's last before going on indefinite hiatus in 2003.
Background & Meaning:
The Argument saw Fugazi continue to expand upon the more experimental art punk leanings of Red Medicine and End Hits while also heavily incorporating other instruments, such as piano and cello into their sound. The album also featured the first extensive contributions from outside musicians, most notably longtime stage-tech Jerry Busher, who added percussion on a second drum set to several of the album's songs as well as Kathi Wilcox of Bikini Kill and Bridget Cross of Unrest who provided additional backing vocals.
When asked about the meaning of the album's title by Guitar World in a 2001 interview, singer/guitarist Ian MacKaye described it (and the song title from which the album name comes from), as "an anti-war manifesto." MacKaye expanded upon this by stating, "A main point of the song is that I will not agree with war across the board. It also talks about a greater argument: that these giant airplanes are dropping tons of homicidal weaponry, blowing the shit out of everybody, and guys are running around with guns. And that is an argument of colossal scale."
Writing and recording:
The band began work on the The Argument in 1999, after touring in support of End Hits. This process saw the group taking more time than usual to write and demo material. Each member would bring their own individual riffs and ideas to the band, jam on them, and then begin piecing the songs together into various configurations before deciding on what would become the final versions.
In some cases, the group picked apart songs that were already written to form completely new works. When asked about this process, and the track "Epic Problem" in particular, singer/guitarist Guy Picciotto explained to Pitchfork Media in 2002 "This time, for some reason, we just came up with a new idea for it. The whole verse for that song is different from what we had before, and then suddenly, the chorus. It's like Lego's. I mean, that's really the way that we work. We assemble stockpiles of parts and ideas and then we just kind of just keep clicking them together until something works. There's a song, "Full Disclosure," and there's a song, "Strangelight"; for a long time, they were the same song. But if you listen to the record, they don't sound anything alike. It's hard to imagine that they could ever have been linked, but for a long time they were." Other tracks, such as the "The Kill" were arranged entirely in the studio.
The album's recording sessions took place between January and April 2001 at Inner Ear Studios and Dischord House in Arlington, VA, located just outside of Washington D.C. The band once again worked with producer/engineer Don Zientara. During the recording process a considerable amount of time was spent finalizing each song's production, in particular the album's drum tracks, in an effort to give the album a unique feel. Drummer Brendan Canty explained to Modern Drummer that "We recorded them all very differently in terms of the drum sounds. We used a lot of different drum kits, cymbals, snares, and miking techniques.
Release & Reception:
The Argument was released by Dischord Records on October 16, 2001, along with their EP, Furniture (EP), almost 4 years after the release of End Hits. The album was met with critical and commercial success entering the Billboard charts and selling over 170,000 copies in its first week of release. Arion Berger of Rolling Stone called it "bracing" and "intellectual" and Chris True of AllMusic referred to the album as "ear-shattering and spine-tingling at once" stating that, "the band has raised the bar for themselves and others once again." He also noted that the album had "touched on strange new territory." Overall critical response to The Argument was very positive. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has received an average score of 87, based on 20 reviews.
The album's cover features a photographic illustration composed of two tightly cropped images of what appears to be a bronze relief plaque: two arms of justice extended in opposite directions, one with a torch in-hand and the other empty. The CD insert has two silver folds that open to reveal a booklet which includes a picture of a plaque memorializing Kent State shooting victim Sandra Lee Scheuer, with her name and the date of her death; May 4, 1970 engraved upon it. When asked about the meaning of the cover in a 2001 interview, Picciotto offered the following; "You'll understand the meaning in time. It's like a chemical -- you put it out there and the reaction that it creates is what art is."
All songs written by Fugazi. (Lead vocals in parentheses).
"Untitled Intro" - 0:52,
"Cashout" - 4:24 (MacKaye),
"Full Disclosure" - 3:53 (Picciotto),
"Epic Problem" - 3:59 (MacKaye),
"Life and Limb" - 3:09 (Picciotto),
"The Kill" - 5:27 (Lally),
"Strangelight" - 5:53 (Picciotto),
"Oh" - 4:29 (Picciotto),
"Ex-Spectator" - 4:18 (MacKaye),
"Nightshop" - 4:02 (Picciotto),
"Argument" - 4:27 (MacKaye),
Guy Picciotto - vocals, guitar,
Ian MacKaye - vocals, guitar, piano,
Joe Lally - vocals, bass,
Brendan Canty - drums, piano,
Jerry Busher - second drums, percussion,
Bridget Cross - backing vocals,
Kathi Wilcox - backing vocals,
Amy Domingues - cello,
Produced, Recorded, Engineered & Mixed By Fugazi & Don Zientara,
CD Mastering By Chad Clark,
Vinyl Mastering By John Loder,
Jem Cohen - cover design, photography,
David Bryant - photography,
Steven Skovensky - photography,
The Billboard 200
The Argument won the A2IM (American Association of Independent Music) award for Best Rock Album.
Best Rock Album