Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8: The Faith, "You're X'd"

Artist: The Faith
Song: "You're X'd"
Album: The Faith/Void split EP
Year: 1982

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Though many music scholars and fans of the genre in question may wish to think it different, the reality is that much of the "thrash metal" movement was taken from a single hardcore band.  While there were certainly many other influences, primarily the darker and louder rock bands of the 1970's, it would not be until the early 1980's that the formula would begin to manifest itself in its more modern sense.  In the wake of the "punk explosion," many bands across the planet were finding different ways to work the ethos of that genre into different styles, and this is what created the unique hardcore sound that emerged at that time in Washington, D.C.  It would be that city which would produce many of the most important bands in the hardcore style, and one of the earliest, The Faith, would be one of the most short-lived, yet critically important to the development of multiple genres.  Formed in the wake of the first hiatus of Minor Threat, The Faith were in some ways an "all star" lineup of members of groups that had recently disbanded, and yet the music the quartet created is unquestionably unique.  There is a fire and energy in every song that the band plays, and yet it is the way that the guitars are played and mixed on their early tracks where one can find the clear blueprint for the "trash metal" sound.  Due to the sonic quality, as well as the overall tone and intent behind the song, there are few recordings that better define the brilliant sound of The Faith than their 1982 track, "You're X'd."

The moment that "You're X'd" begins, there is a presence on the song that is unlike anything else from their era or genre.  It is the way that the opening crush of guitar almost has more in common with Black Sabbath than any of their hardcore peers that makes it clear how distinctive an approach The Faith took on every song.  Guitarist Michael Hampton is in the spotlight for nearly the entire song, and there is a tone to his playing that is a sonic fusion that had rarely sounded as outright perfect.  Throughout the song, Hampton manages to retain the urgency and angst of the hardcore movement whilst injecting a grind and grit that made it impossible to mistake his sound for that of anyone else.  It is the speed and aggression with which he plays that would become a major part of the "thrash metal" movement, and once one hears this song, the connection cannot be denied.  However, the rest of the band plays with equal power and skill, and yet most overlook the fantastic basswork of Chris Bald.  It is within his playing where much of the tension on "You're X'd" resides, and one can easily imagine his bass whipping an audience into a complete frenzy.  It is the way that he locks in with drummer Ivor Hanson that gives the song as imposing a presence as it has, and Hanson's playing is an unrelenting pummeling that is as "hardcore perfection" as one can find anywhere.

Yet it is the vocals of Alec MacKaye that serve as the ideal finishing touch to the overall sound of The Faith, and his work on "You're X'd" is some of his best in every sense of the word.  Much like many of his contemporaries, it is the combination of frustration and urgency within his shouting that makes him such a captivating performer, and yet there is a venom in every word that sets him far apart.  In many ways, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly "what" it is that sets MacKaye so far part from others, but the reality remains that the proximity that one can detect to the lyrics, as well as the almost righteous feeling one gets from his performance refuses to be ignored.  It is also within the vocal work of Alec MacKaye where one can find some of the earliest "push back" at the growing "straight edge" movement; and many of the lyrical sentiments found in "You're X'd" still hold true to this day across many different genres.  Though it (the movement) had only been "in existence" for a year or two at best, the reality is that "posers" and those not completely committed or understanding of what it was about had already flooded into the scene.  MacKaye holds nothing back, calling out those who, " drink, you fuck behind my back...," and it becomes instantly clear that not only does he feel the lifestyle in question is correct, but those who are not completely committed should not claim differently.

From the guitars to the rhythm section to the vocals, there is not an aspect of "You're X'd" that is anything other than completely captivating; and it is the overall urgency with which The Faith deploy every element of their music that make it impossible to deny any of their importance.  One can see "You're X'd" as one of the first "warning calls" to those in any movement that were not completely committed to certain ideals, and it remains one of the most unapologetic songs every recorded.  To this day, the song retains every bit of its impact, and even after hearing the track countless times, it is still just as powerful and invigorating.  In so many ways, "You're X'd" represents everything it meant to be a hardcore band at the time, as not only is there a blazing, almost chaotic musical and vocal arrangement, but with the song clocking in at just over one minute, there is not a moment wasted in any sense of the term.  Yet the fact remains that it is the way The Faith constructed songs like "You're X'd" that would open entirely new ways to approach the hardcore sound; and one cannot deny the strong link between the band and the growth of the "trash metal" style.  However, even had this sound not developed as it did, the music of The Faith would have been just as powerful and important, and they rarely sounded better than on their 1982 recording, "You're X'd."

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