Keep Your Eyes Open is a collection of photos of Fugazi taken by
Glen E. Friedman from the time the band began in 1987 until they went on their
indefinite hiatus in the 2000s. Looking at the pictures in this second edition
brought up a lot of memories for me. Fugazi’s lyrics and music played a big
role in my life. Many of their songs tie in with times in my teens and
twenties. These include moments when I drove the Midwestern backroads where I
grew up, when I shared what Fugazi meant to me with friends in college, and
times I watched sunsets from my parents house where I lived after college.
Fugazi’s lyrics caused me to re-evaluate my political and social views. I may not listen to Fugazi much anymore, but I hold them in the highest esteem. They’re unlike any other band in the history of punk: putting out consistently great music while simultaneously sticking to their ideals. That being said, I come to Keep Your Eyes Open with a lot of emotions.
Friedman’s photos show the band both in the live setting and in prepared photo shoots, in color and black and white. Simply looking at the photos and without any music, I was taken back to some of those times previously mentioned. This book has that power to move people.
The opening essay by Ian Svenonius is typical writing by the author/musician: using a philosophical and strange story to explain the history of the band and why they’re important. It’s a slog to get through (as I’ve often found Svenonius’s writing to be) but does an adequate job of placing Fugazi’s importance in context. What I very much enjoyed was the interview between Ian Mackaye and Friedman at the end of the book, which is new as of this second edition. It provided insight into the pictures chosen and the process of putting together the book, as well as the relationship between Friedman and the band.
There are a few things I wish would’ve been improved, however. I wish Friedman would’ve given more insights and thoughts on each of the photos. I also wish he hadn’t overlaid some photos on top of portions of others (which is also a complaint Mackaye states in the Q&A). Additionally, it would’ve been nice to see some more relaxed, casual shots of the band in their everyday life. There were only a handful of those and even the action shots didn’t always come to take on the level I feel Fugazi’s music emotionally conveyed. My final complaint is that while it’s an interesting idea to give each page of the book a song title by Fugazi instead of a page number, it’s also annoying.
Still, the book works. It’s a good compendium of a band whose importance was and is vital in punk and while the band is more than what’s captured here, Friedman’s relationship with the group over a few decades is integral in giving listeners an insight into this act that was key to how we see punk. –Kurt Morris (Akashic Books, 232 Third St., Suite A115, Brooklyn, NY 11215)