Recently, Dave Grohl gave NME an insight into the fan letter he wrote hardcore icon Ian Mackaye as a teenager. “If the Foos could do a Dischord single,” he said, “then we could break up. Done deal.” Of course, Grohl wasn’t totally serious – although people signing this petition urging the legendary hardcore label to take the bait and vanquish the Foos forever, dream otherwise. But for a label that always attracted punk’s most devoted and obsessive zealots, it also rang true. So where does the love come from?
Founded in 1980 in Washington, Dischord disturbed and challenged conservative America at a time when UK punk had infected the suburbs without becoming a national movement. The label, led by Jeff Nelson and a young Ian Mackaye – who, after cult acclaim with Minor Threat, went on to form game-changing hardcore titans Fugazi – became a locus for hardcore culture, with underground bands countrywide collaborating with the label, crashing at its HQ or just taking inspiration from its vehemently DIY modus operandi. The label would sometimes throw parties gluing together record covers, hand-crafting inlays and hauling shipments to the post office. It wasn’t “just about the music, and if anyone likes it that’s a bonus.” It was a lifestyle, and was proud to be.
As well as landmark DC punk releases by the likes of Minor Threat and Fugazi, the label has released a serious treasure trove of cult favourites. Here’s seven of our picks.
The Nation Of Ulysses – ‘Plays Pretty For Baby’
The Nation of Ulysses, self-proclaimed “activists for youth”, weren’t afraid of injecting some humour into the social revolution, but their skewed, sugar-bomb punk remained a serious obsessions for disenfranchised kids.
Fugazi – ‘13 Songs’
Fugazi’s debut compiled early tracks to make a historic mission statement from Ian Mackaye and co, who’d become spokespersons for a national underground that they continued to challenge and subvert.
Beauty Pill – ‘The Cigarette Girl From The Future’
This early EP from Chad Clarke’s Beauty Pill came three years after the demise of Smart Went Crazy, his earlier, more typically DC punk group. ‘The Cigarette Girl from the Future’ uses cello and harp to their wryly cynical outlook, perfectly captured in mantras like ‘Idiot Heart’’s “The bad news is there is no hope/The good news is there never was.”
Minor Threat – ‘Complete Discography’
Ian Mackaye’s breakthrough came with Minor Threat, the early-‘80s DC punk band whose rejection of rock’n’roll frills radicalised a generation. In an ever-evolving and unpindownable scene, this short career-spanning set is a close as it gets to genre-defining.
Faraquet – ‘The View From This Tower’
Faraquet took the stormy-skies post-hardcore of Fugazi’s later work and ramped up the complexity, but their debut never loses sight of the rough-hewn melodies that won you over in the first place.
Rites Of Spring – ‘Rites Of Spring’
Rites of Spring’s explosive 1985 debut is often cited as a precursor to emo, and it’s east to see why: singer Guy Picciotto tears open his larynx and heart with equal passion. He’d go on to join Mackaye in Fugazi.
Q and Not U – ‘No Kill No Beep Beep’
Post-hardcore faves Q And Not U blended lustful melodies with throat-scraping hysterics on their debut, which, on its release in October 2000, reminded orthodox punks that Dischord was still pushing boundaries.