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Old 07-11-2009, 01:39 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Join Date: Jun 2009
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Default 3 - Dark Days Coming (1989)

1. Empathy
2. Swann Street
3. Buy Me a River
4. Domino Days
5. Dodger
6. International
7. Pious & Blind
8. Rejection
9. Dark Days Coming
10. Don't Walk Away
11. Shitberries Demo
12. Cheatin' Heart
13. Love Is Like a Rose
14. Food For Thog
15. Pretty / Heavy
16. Back & Forth
17. Hundred Aker Wood
18. Midnight Meat Train
19. Western Thrashy One
20. Long Marching Song
21. Sweaking Boot Noise

*tracks 12-21 released 1997

In the late-80s Dischord was an appropriate name for the label. The incestuous family of musicians all seemed to be scrambling to find the perfect band that would allow them to explore and propel their music in the post-hardcore era. Initially, Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson had planned to make Egg Hunt a fully functional band complete with members. Toward this end, they had been jamming with Geoff Turner and Steve Niles from Gray Matter. MacKaye wasn’t satisfied and went off to form Fugazi but Nelson stayed with the other two, reconnected with Mark Haggerty (also ex-Gray Matter) and formed the most underrated 80s band in Dischord’s history: 3.

The band was together for about two years and released only one album. Dark Days Coming was released in 1989 after they had already disbanded. My impression is that this band achieved not only making the best post-harDCore sound but also a sound that was sorely lacking in music everywhere in late-80s. This was truly the sound of pop and punk merged and if Pop Punk had gone in this direction rather than the sunny, bouncy way that it did, we would have all been better off.

There were two big reasons that the Dischord bands stopped playing DC-style hardcore punk (harDCore) by 1983. First, their shows had become overrun by violent idiots. Second and more importantly, the musicians were skilled and dedicated, and frankly hardcore was too simple and limiting to satisfy them any longer. They had been playing that stuff since they were in high school; who can blame them for getting bored?

Dark Days Coming is the result of true musicians setting their own standards, playing what they felt like playing, and seeing to it that the end result is worthwhile. In this case, unless you were going to punk shows in DC in ’87 and ’88, Dark Days Coming is all there is so enjoy it. The first eleven tracks are the original album and they are the only fully realized songs released by the band. The first song, “Empathy”, has a classical intro reminiscent of Megadeth or something, but instead of fading into a blistering thrash riff, “Empathy” bursts forth with Turner’s shouted/sung/spoken vocals and the band’s typically tight rhythm. Next up is the band’s masterpiece, “Swann Street”, featuring the best of the band: Nelson’s clean, precise drums, Niles’s dark, funky bass and Turner’s surprisingly evocative lyrics and pleasant vocal delivery. It’s a song about his street in DC but it feels like it’s about much more than that. Throughout the album all kinds of moods are explored. “Buy Me a River” has an element of sad desperation; “Dodger” is simply fast, beautiful, poppy punk. “Pious and Blind” has a Ramones-like energy with all instruments front-and-center at every moment. The title track has a bluesy, metallic guitar riff that gives a slight nod to Black Sabbath. “Shitberries Demo” is an acoustic version of “Swann Street” further showcasing the beauty of that song. On one hand, 3 was just one of many one-shot bands in Dischord’s catalog who possibly never reached their peak. But that doesn’t matter when the band’s single document is so damn special.

In 1997 a new version of the album was released on CD with a bunch of extra tracks which are, presumably, everything the band ever recorded and felt comfortable sharing. Along with a cover of Hank William Jr’s “Cheatin’ Heart” there are a bunch of instrumental tracks. These tracks are certainly less essential than the original album tracks, but they are pretty diverse and interesting in a different way. They might even appeal to fans of doomy instrumental stoner metal. Indeed, a lot of the Dischord guys were metal fans and it shows on these extra tracks. Some of them are apparently named for their sound such as “Pretty/Heavy” which is literally that – it has a pretty part followed by a heavy part. I’ll leave “Western Thrashy One” up to your imagination.

I am not usually one who complains about which music is over- or underrated. But in the case of Dark Days Coming, I have always wondered why it did not make 3 more of a household name like other bands such as Gray Matter, Rites of Spring, and, of course, Fugazi. In any case, Dark Days Coming is an overlooked gem of music that should not be missed by fans of Dischord’s output.

My rating of both the band and this album is A+
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