They lacked the fierce politics of Fugazi, the vocal firepower of Shudder to Think, the humor of the Make-Up, the danceability of Q and Not U. So how did the humble D.C. trio Faraquet become my favorite Dischord band with just one album? Simple. The View from This Tower (2000) got it all right. More prog than punk, more groove than math, and way more economical in terms of playing and songwriting than an album with so many time changes ought to be, Tower was everything at once, all wrapped up in a short sunburst of an album.
Anthology 1997-1998 collects the various nonalbum tracks that Faraquet released in the years before their first full-length — two seven-inches, a split with Akarso, one unreleased song and a retooled version of “Sea Song” from the full-length. The compilation is disjointed by nature, but lack of cohesion was part of the excitement of Tower, too. You never know what’s coming next with Faraquet, but you know it’s going to be pretty sweet.
Ten years deep and Faraquet’s melding of flashy technique, post-hardcore riffage and emo-leaning melody still sounds astoundingly fresh. It ain’t just the Slint-via-Sunny Day Real Estate changeups that wow on “The Whole Thing Over,” though, or the desultory movements between prog, punk, and dub on “Review.” It’s the way that Devin Ocampo’s guitar playing defines melodies and dances around them simultaneously, relegating his unassuming voice to the role of just another instrumental line when it shows up at all. “Parakeet” and “Yo-Yo” work great as dynamic, fully composed pieces without a peep outta Ocampo.
The best tracks on Anthology 1997-1998 showcase the sublime rhythm section: bassist Jeff Boswell (Ocampo’s bandmate in the pre-Faraquet band Smart Went Crazy) and drummer Chad Molter (Ocampo’s bandmate in the post-Faraquet band Medications). The straightahead 6/8 ebb and flow of “Call It Sane” takes on an unexpected complexity when Molter is subtly subdiving it; he and Boswell are magnetically synched and welded to the overall groove no matter how fractured it might be.
The songs on Anthology 1997-1998 are every bit as inventive and propulsive as those on Tower, and moreover the release more than doubles the frustratingly small number of songs that the band has in regular print on CD. As both an intro to Faraquet and a completist’s wet dream, this collection is essential listening.