When did post-punk D.C. become such a boogie town? Besides the misspelling of “capital,” one of the odd notes struck by Echoes of the Nation’s Capitol (2) is the profusion of blues-based, even metallicofferings. Such tracks as Stress Magnets’ “Second,” Broad’s “Coma 25,” and Liquor Bike’s “P.R. Song 18” seem to owe more to ZZ Top than the Fall or Gang of Four. This is not exactly a D.C. thing, though: Third World Underground, the Arizona outfit that assembled this 21-track overview, has included Baltimore in its definition of “nation’s capital,” and all the aforementioned bands hail from the north side of Laurel. So does the misnamed Berzerk, which turns in a reasonably faithful version of the poppy “Blue Hearts,” and W.O.D., whose “Burn Me” fits better with the work of such woman-led D.C. bands as the Norman Mayer Group, Ape House, and Sweetie, whose “Walkin’ ” is an unsurprising but agreeably vigorous kiss-off. (Velocity Girl’s here too, but with “What You,” an ethereal fragment that puts a male vocal up front.)
The odds are high against finding 21 solid tracks by mostly unproven bands, but Echoes packs plenty of highlights between the Ignobles’ opening “Cherry Bomb,” a raucous slab of futuristic rockabilly, and Trusty’s closing “A Modest Proposal,” which drives its Hüskerisms in the general direction of the Byrds and then unexpectedly throws in horn accents. In between are such near-Dischordian noteworthies as Las Mordidas’ “Big Eyed Man,” a tightly wound rocker in the Circus Lupus tradition; Wingtip Sloat’s “Salt Rising Bread,” which perversely emulates slow-burn Fugazi while namedropping Jethro Tull; and Onespot Fringehead’s hammering “Ground One.” Also noteworthy are Edsel’s “Strip the Codes,” a languidly edgy, almost-pop highlight of the quartet’s recent Detroit Folly; Geek’s “D Is for Downtown,” which uses a disco quote to energize its folk-punk sound; Revision’s “Happy New Year,” a post-punk update of Fairport Convention’s courtly folk-rock style; and Mud’s “Penguins,” a man-and-his-synth piece that recalls late-’70s British electro-minimalism. Reggae influences are most noticeable on Corm’s “Premeditated Fun,” which explodes from a dubby bass line, and Derf’s “Eric Witherspoon,” with its equally dubby drum clank. The disc is available from Third World Underground, 1843 N. Kramer Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719.
State of the Union, another local sampler, was originally issued in 1989, but it’s been unavailable until its recent CD-only re- release. Some of the tracks on this disc, organized by Positive Force as a benefit for the ACLU and CCNV, can be found elsewhere, but some of the ones that can’t are notable: Included are Fugazi’s exhilarating “In Defense of Humans,” Red Emma’s haunting “Candle,” and “Burning in the Undertow,” the only available legacy of the brief-lived One Last Wish. Also included are tunes by such little-documented bands as 3, and Rain, and by better-known ones like Ignition, Soulside, and Shudder to Think. Union is $8 from Dischord, 3819 Beecher St. NW, Washington, DC 20007.