We Owe You Nothing: Fugazi’s Repeater

All images courtesy of Getty Images

Repeater is the full-length debut album by D.C. band Fugazi. It was released in 1990 on the Dischord label after the band had released the two EPs Fugazi and Margin Walker. These were later put together for the 13 songs album. It also marks the first record where Guy Picciotto plays guitar as he had been only contributing vocals previously. As well, the band was working on songs as a band now. Previously Ian Mackaye had written all the songs.

Fugazi – Repeater (1990)/All images courtesy of Getty Images

While not being a huge success at the time, Repeater is now considered to be hugely influential. In my opinion, it is a classic—an important part of music history. The list of bands influenced by what Fugazi was doing at the time is endless.

The album starts with “Turnover,” which sets the tone for the record’s sound. It features Guy Picciotto on lead vocals and sounds different from the songs on the first two EPs, which could be due to the whole band contributing now. The first time you hear Ian Mackaye singing on this record is on the title track “Repeater.” The big track on this side and the album overall is “Merchandise,” with its chorus of “We owe you nothing, You have no control!!” It really has the feel of an anthem. Next, we have “Blueprint,” which starts slowly but kicks in pretty hard when the vocals start.

One thing I really love about this record is the instrumentation. The guitar playing in particular is fascinating to listen to. There is a lot going on there.

Sieve Fisted Find on side two continues the onslaught. More great singing from Guy Picciotto and great guitar work from Ian Mackaye and Guy Picciotto. The album ends on a slightly slower but still intense track called “Shut the Door.” There is not a bad track on here, and it is a very cohesive sounding record.


I first discovered Fugazi in 1991. This is due to the fact their record Steady Diet of Nothing was included in Spin magazine’s top 20 albums of the year. It took me a little time to get my head around what Fugazi do once it clicked I was all in.

There were a lot new bands and music out that year, so it was a year of musical discovery for me. This list also introduced me to Mudhoney, Urge Overkill, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Massive Attack, and Teenage Fanclub.

Fugazi – Steady Diet of Nothing (1991)/All images courtesy of Getty Images

Live Show and Personal Connection

I have managed to see the band twice, and the first show was special although I didn’t realize why at the time. I was excited to see Fugazi, and this was for the In on the Kill Taker tour. The band had two opening acts for this show in Vancouver at the Plaza of Nations. A holdover venue from Expo 86, now renamed expo gardens. The first act was Sparkmarker, a great band from Vancouver who definitely had the Fugazi spirit in their sound. The other band was Mecca Normal which is just two people, Jean Smith and David Lester, also a Vancouver act. So some great music there.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that the drummer for Sparkmarker was Rob Zgaljic, my neighbor when I was growing up. I discovered this when I bought the band’s 7-inch record Plug. He was the first person to introduce me to KISS and AC/DC. I managed to see Sparkmarker one more time. He was later in The Black Halos and currently is with Red Vienna. All good bands and worth checking out.

Sparkmarker – Plug (1991)/All images courtesy of Getty Images

With all of that being said, you can check out my video on Fugazi’s Repeater as part of my Top 100 albums series below:

Video courtesy of Surface Noise

Dig this article? Check out the full archives of Surface Noise, by John Siden, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/surface-noise-archives/

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: