Two Beats Off is track eight on Fugazi’s seminal 1990 debut album Repeater. Really, any cut from that LP could have got the nod for Record of the Day – they’re all powerful, crunching, post-punk, pre-grunge gems – but I’ve always been a sucker for the funky guitar hook that comes in after the chiming opening chords and Guy Picciotto’s vocals:
I cut my nails to the quick
But still I was caught with my hand in the till
Fugazi was formed by Ian MacKaye, vehemently straight edge frontman of ultimate, hardcore, DC punks, Minor Threat, Joe Lally and Picciotto and Brendan Canty of the also awesome Rites of Spring. They started touring before they released a record, playing in squats, underground punk clubs, warehouses, abandoned supermarkets, in fact anywhere that had the space and local kids with enough enthusiasm to make something exciting happen in their town. All the shows were all-ages, there was never any merchandise on sale and the ticket price was always $5. For MacKaye, this was about “putting on music for a reasonable price”. Picciotto’s motivation was slightly different, “It just became perverse to make it five and that’s always been my attraction to it – the perversity of it, insisting on this thing”.
Whatever the reasoning, a $5 ticket price meant that people wouldn’t be too pissed off if it wasn’t a great show and the band could eject over-aggressive slam dancers by returning their nominal entrance fee without too much problem. On the flipside, according to Piocciotto, “When it’s five bucks, you get every jackass on the street who has five bucks and nothing to do that night. But it makes it interesting, man”.
In typical MacKaye style, they didn’t publicise the fact that he was in Fugazi, determined that if the band was going to be heard, it would on its own merits and not on the back of Minor Threat’s following. And they were heard. The relentless touring and the quality and originality of their sophisticated new brand of punk saw the band gain massive popularity in the US and Europe in the nineties. To date Repeater has sold more than 300,000 copies.