Kill Taker arrived as the rise of alternative rock no longer seemed like a fluke, but a historical inevitability. Wisely re-teaming with Nicely after an abortive session with Steve Albini, Killtaker was the closest the band would come to its live sound if not their on-stage fluidity. In contrast to the silent moments on Steady Diet, this is incredibly dense rock music, packed with a passion and rage as muscular as it was heartfelt, filled with sound and fury, signifying as much as possible. The furious opener “Facet Squared” finds MacKaye writing some of his most perfect punk maxims (“Cool’s eternal, but it’s always dated,” “We draw lines, stand behind them/ That’s why flags are SUCH UGLY THINGS”) for a complicated time while Picciotto shouted out Native Americans (“Smallpox Champion”) and his favorite filmmaker (the fearsomely emotional, independent “Cassavetes”). “Great Cop” (as in “you’d make a great cop, you PIG!!”) yells at journalists, “Rend It” is pure melodrama, “Sweet and Low” is an instrumental lullaby, and “Instrument” tries to get the balance right, a question MacKaye would return to again and again. For all emo took from the album, that style never did catch up to Kill Taker‘s refined, hellacious power.
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