It became fitting that Fugazi released an album of outtakes (and documentary) when they did. The band had already gone their separate ways and were making music together less and less frequently. The writing should have been on the wall.
It’s hard to call “Instrument” an actual album, as it’s not. It is exactly what it sold itself as: a collection of outtakes. Sadly, most of those outtakes aren’t particularly interesting. It actually goes a long way to confirming that the band is the bunch of lo-fi, regular guys that everyone thought they were. “Instrument” is filled with the type of junk that is being recorded in every basement in America. This is Fugazi showing us that they’re no different. They record every single thing they think sounds good, too, even if they realize after the fact that it’s crap.
In their defense, there are some gems on this record, some bits and pieces that I would have loved to have seen as complete songs.
The “Apreggiator” demo is interesting given how much they increased the speed for the recorded version, which was a smart decision.
“Afterthought” introduces us to Fugazi using keyboards and it become apparent over the course of this album that they could have done great things with keyboards. Why they never did more, I don’t know, but between this song and “Little Debbie” it was clear they could have produced something great incorporating keyboards.
“Trio’s” is darkly atmospheric, more so than anything else the band has recorded, which is probably part of the reason it never materialized on an album. “Turkish Disco” is the first track that sounds like a relatively complete song, so much so that I wonder why it didn’t end up on another record.
The question about keyboards is also applicable to piano, an instrument Fugazi used as window dressing in the past, but never as the focus for a song. “I’m So Tired” suggests that they should have placed it front and center for at least a few tracks.
The demos for “Rend It,” “Closed Caption,” and “Guilford Fall” are interesting enough for big Fugazi fans. The “Rend It” demo is great given how drastically the song changed over time.
“Swingset” has a fantastic verse, but the attempt at a chorus makes it clear why it’s an outtake.
“Shaken All Over” is basically just a recording of Joe playing a bass line.
“Slow Crostic” is exactly what it says: a slower version of “Caustic Acrostic.” This particular track is noteworthy because it’s the basis for a song on the Wugazi album, a mash-up of Fugazi and the Wu-Tang Clan.
In the end, “Instrument” is a collection of songs for only the biggest of Fugazi fans. It’s great as a glimpse inside the creative process, but doesn’t offer much beyond that. It is, to be honest, an odd duck of a release. Nothing about this record suggests that it needed to see the light of day, yet here we are.
It really just kind of mucks up the Fugazi library.