For more than 30 years now Dischord Records has walked its own path.
A label initially founded to release a one off EP by the Teen Idles, it has become a by-word in integrity and DIY politics, supporting voices from the underground and building an astonishing catalogue in the process.
Even now, Dischord is essentially run in the same way it always has been - each release is carefully selected, this steady but never over-whelming flow of incredible music, building up into this over-arching story that connects different generations.
With the label placing (virtually) its entire catalogue on Bandcamp, it's time for a whole new wave of fans and musicians to become acquainted with the Dischord ethos.
Clash spoke to a few of our favourite bands to get their advice on where to start...
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Dag Nasty – 'Dag With Shawn' (As picked by Johnny Temple, Fake Names/Soulside/Girls Against Boys)
I remember so vividly the first time I heard four songs from 'Dag With Shawn' (Dischord 168; recorded in 1985 but not released till 2010). Bobby Sullivan played it for me on cassette soon after it was recorded and the first song I heard was 'Never Go Back'. When the band cut from the intro into the first verse and Shawn Brown started singing (“Sometimes it gets so cloudy…”), almost nothing ever sounded better.
This whole Dag Nasty album is relentless, aggressive, and beautifully recorded, with Ian MacKaye and Don Zientara at the helm at Inner Ear Studios.
Brian Baker’s guitar is both precise and uncontainable across the album, and Colin Sears (drums) and Roger Marbury (bass) are solid as hell in a constantly propulsive and live-sounding lock. It almost sounds like the four of them are racing against each other and somehow perfectly in sync.
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Fire Party - ‘19 Songs’ (As picked by Ren Aldridge, Petrol Girls)
I’d never heard of Fire Party before checking out this discography on Bandcamp and I cannot understand how they aren’t more well known or why there’s barely any information about them online!
Amy Pickering’s vocals instantly commanded my attention. You can hear how powerful she must have been as a performer in her recorded vocal delivery - which is extremely tough to get across.
There is so much personality and energy emanating from this record. Standout tracks after just a couple of listens are ‘Engine’ with its driving drumbeat and erratic vocals, and ‘Walls Of Mind’, with is rolling verse riff. A recurring lyrical theme seems to be how patriarchy impacts her our relationship to ourselves.
I’m super inspired and stoked to dive further into this record.
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The Make-Up - 'Destination:Love LIVE At Cold Rice' (As picked by JC Cairns, Martha)
The Make-Up’s Destination: Love LIVE at Cold Rice is one of my favourite live (or not-so live) records. Sonically it embodies the Make-Up - spectacle, style and manifesto.
The original Yeh Yeh Gospel record imagines a future where rock n roll performance is spiritual and subversive again. It feels otherworldly at times, frantic and dynamic.
A really far out record.
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The Nation Of Ulysses - '13 Point Plan To Destroy America' (As picked by James Spence, Rolo Tomassi)
The album that resonated with me most from the Dischord back catalogue would have to be The Nation Of Ulysses, '13 Point Plan To Destroy America'.
I can remember hearing it for the first time probably when I was about 16 or 17 and loving the energy and the attitude that comes across, particularly in the lyrics and Ian's vocals. It felt more thoughtful than mindlessly aggressive and I preferred that. Its total chaos in parts too though, and the combination of post-punk and almost jazz/funk in parts is a really wild listen.
Although this would have been years after they broke up, the way the band presented themselves, the detail on the liner notes and the general aesthetic of the LP itself was nothing like anything I'd really encountered before. It's clear they were an influence on a lot of bands that followed on labels like Three One G and to me/us!
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Rites Of Spring – 'Rites Of Spring' (As picked by Tom Withers, Klute / The Stupids)
By 1985 American hardcore and Dischord records was changing at a rapid pace. 1983 had been fervent with landmark releases - 1984 ended up being rather quiet. However great changes were a foot and all of that came into being in 1985 when the kids of DC expanded on the punk rock dialogue.
Rites Of Spring perfectly encapsulates those times with an album that burns so bright and hot from start to finish it’s no surprise that the band couldn’t last forever. For me it’s a one-time deal, a perfect alignment of random factors. Its passionate, hypnotic, angry and vulnerable. Nothing else they recorded came close. They are one of the most influential bands in DC history - a springboard to allow others to feel comfortable and express themselves.
I was lucky enough to see them at the 9.30 Club that Revolution Summer and still, to this day, it’s the best set I’ve ever seen.
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Fugazi – ‘In On The Killer Taker’ (As picked by Mike Wimbleton, Aerial Salad)
It’s not often a band makes two consecutively good records not to mention a third. ‘In On The Kill Taker’ is considered Fugazi’s breakthrough album after being the first to debut on the Billboard charts. It’s a seasoned band who have solidified a pure sound of their own and show no signs of backing down any time soon.
Beginning with the captivating and enthralling intro to ‘Facet Squared’ through to its concluding number ‘Last Chance For A Slow Dance’, Kill Taker’s track listing shares that golden Fugazi blend of punk rager’s and softer melodic ominous numbers.
With its insanely raw production and first class song writing we hear the band going all gas and no brakes, Mackaye and Picciotto deliver genuinely powerful performances on every single track not to mention them being backed up by the most interesting rhythm section in punk.
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The Make-Up - ‘I Want Some’ (As picked by Holly Ross, The Lovely Eggs)
I’ve always loved and respected how Dischord operated. Just a no bullshit DIY label releasing purely bands coming out of Washington DC. There’s a purity and integrity about that and that’s also at the heart of everything The Lovely Eggs do as a band. Who gives a shit what other people are doing elsewhere? Concentrate on yer own patch and what you’re doing, work hard, make music and put it out!
There’re so many good bands on that label but one that really stands out for me is The Make-Up. I just love everything about them. I remember buying the album ‘I Want Some’ which is a compilation of 7” singles and B sides and it totally blew me away. They have such a soulful sound but at the same time totally defiant and punk rock. They’re the best live band I have ever seen.
This is a great album originally released by K and reissued by Dischord.
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The Make-Up - 'Destination: Love – Live! At Cold Rice' (As picked by Dunstan Bruce – Interrobang‽/ Chumbawamba)
The sheer audacity
The surf the soul the punk
The anti-capitalist anti-bourgeois anti-machismo
The anti-rock & roll manifestos
The revolutionary rhetoric
The need to destroy all things Americanic
The spouting of the Situationist International
The passion, the fashion,
The society of the spectacle
The cultural refugees on the run
The catharsis of having such serious fun
The James Brownesque showmanship
The band-audience love-in relationship
The theatre, the sermons, the desperate pleas
The make believe mythos
The singer, lead chanter down on his knees
The call and response
The unrestrained flamboyance
The verve of the vaudeville
The sheer thrill of it all
The Gospel Yeh Yeh
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