A while back, Pearl Jam issued a slew of cheap, generically packaged live CDs, supposedly as a treat for its fans. Of course, Vedder and crew, who haven't exactly been raking it in lately, were just trying to beat the bootleggers at their own game. What's great about Fugazi's similar new project -- a twenty-volume set of live recordings culled from the D.C. group's seventeen-year history -- is that you know the whole thing isn't just some crappy cash-in. Fugazi's unswerving integrity and commitment to social and economic justice are as legendary as they are unimpeachable, and Live Series is no different. Starting with a scratchy, raw recording of its inaugural performance in 1987, these volumes are burned-to-order CDRs -- priced between eight and ten bucks -- that don't even appear on the outfit's own popular Dischord imprint. (Instead, they're available directly from the band at www.fugaziliveseries.com). The fidelity of the discs progresses as the band itself did throughout the '90s: Founded by ex-members of the deified hardcore and proto-emo acts Minor Threat and Rites of Spring, Fugazi expanded its Gang of Four/Ruts-accented sound into a dialect of poetic aggression and noise-laced improv that accurately translated its ethos of intensity, passion and freedom. By the time the final installment in the series -- a stunning, two-disc set recorded in Ireland in 1999 -- winds up, it leaves little doubt that Fugazi is one of the last true punk bands standing, the rare example of four righteously indignant white dudes who somehow manage to rock it like they talk it.
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