Friday, July 07, 2006

The Expensive Sound of Empire lists five different bands called Empire. The band that released an album called Expensive Sound in 1981 was fronted by ex-Generation X guitarist Bob Andrews and drummer Mark Laff. It's an album that was overlooked by almost everyone except Ian MacKaye and others in the DC scene who were casting around for a new direction after hardcore reached its terminal extremes of velocity, negativity and infighting.

Jack Rabid captured what's really special about Empire's sole album in his Allmusic review. Andrews had an amazing guitar sound, great songs, and a plaintive singing voice that is both affecting and unaffected. There's lots of open space in the band's sound, which allows for greater dynamics than Gen X (or most any other punk band at the time). Andrews isn't a showoff; he takes a decidedly post-punk solo on the album's title track, but most of the time the bass and drums don't get overwhelmed by the guitar. It's easy to hear what appealed to Fugazi about Empire.

Expensive Sound was reissued on CD with bonus tracks, but the reissue is out of print. (I'd love to find it.) I have the vinyl, which I bought because I admired Andrews' guitar playing on the Gen X albums. I didn't know it would become a touchstone for early emo or post-hardcore or whatever, but I'm glad the record found appreciative ears.

Empire: All These Things
Empire: Expensive Sound
Empire: New Emotion


At 7/10/2006 3:58 PM , Anonymous jon said...

nice tunes. scratchy vinyl adds to the allure, i think.

At 7/11/2007 6:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reissue is readily available from

I think you can also buy it from Dischord. It's been in print a while but for some reason distribution has been poor.

I love the record and was glad to see it mentioned in your blog.


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