Rites of Spring


The self-titled debut by Rites of Spring is one of those American underground artifacts that’s more often cited for its historical significance than celebrated for its musical brilliance. Yes, Rites of Spring is a key forerunner for what would come to be known as emo, the record that helped introduce future Fugazi members Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty to the world, and the standout release in the unofficial D.C.-scene changing-of-the-guard known as Revolution Summer, which also birthed Ian MacKaye’s short-lived Embrace. But even isolated from the mythology, the songs themselves still burn white hot. On “Drink Deep,” Mike Fellows’ bass, Canty’s drums and the guitars of Picciotto and Eddie Janney — a late-period member of the Faith — conjure a swirling post-hardcore drone, as Picciotto howls out as though in the throes of some kind of spiritual awakening (“I believe in moments / Transparent moments / Moments in grace / When you’ve got to stake your faith”). On the masterful “For Want Of,” Janney’s searing melodic riffs heighten the urgency of Picciotto’s rueful unpacking of emotional turmoil (“But I woke up this morning / With a piece of past caught in my throat / And then I choked”). The whole record does in fact feel like a revolution, replacing hardcore’s red-faced rant with a kind of ragged existential plea. Punk rock has rarely felt so vulnerable, or so brave.

Hank Shteamer