With Dave Smalley of Boston’s DYS on vocals and Brian Baker (ex-Minor Threat/Meatmen) on guitar, this DC quartet was something of a supergroup; with co-production by Ian MacKaye, the debut sounds a lot like Minor Threat. Hardcore pop with heart and harmonies, it’s still much rougher than Smalley’s next stop, All. Pithy and articulate, with a share of straight-edge sentiments, this is music for moshers and homebodies alike.
With a new singer and bassist, Wig Out at Denkos is a more streamlined affair that replaces most of the first LP’s frantic tempos with rockier dynamics. Peter Cortner’s vocals are much more musical than Smalley’s, which only enhances the noticeably sharper material, especially the neat title track.
With another lineup change (this time it’s the drummer), Field Day is an excellent punky pop record that is by turns soulful (“The Ambulance Song”) and aggressive (“Dear Mrs. Touma”). The Ruts’ influence on DC punk bands shows up in an exciting cover of “Staring at the Rude Boys” and Dag Nasty’s own foray into dub lite, “Never Green Lane.” A re-recorded “Under Your Influence” (from Can I Say) and (as one of the four CD bonus tracks) Wire’s “12 XU,” a staple from Baker’s Minor Threat days, are well-integrated into this diverse and tunefully accessible collection that has penetrating personal lyrics.
The following year, Baker resurfaced in LA metallurgists Junkyard, teamed with, of all people, former Big Boy Chris Gates. Despite the pedigree, the band’s first LP is a horrible major-label bomb. The second isn’t much better.