Rites Of Spring are one of the greatest bands ever. No objections. They were:
Guy Picciotto - Vocals & Guitar
Eddie Janney - Guitar & Backing Vocals
Mike Fellows - Bass & Backing Vocals
Brendan Canty - Drums
Rites Of Spring were from Washington, DC and were active from the spring of 1984 to the winter of 1986. Their members had already been somewhat active in the DC scene at the time (most notably guitarist Eddie Janney who played in Skewbald/Grand Union and The Faith, and drummer Brendan Canty who played in Deadline prior to ROS, as well as a band called Brief Weeds with Guy Picciotto). They formed at a time when the punk scene had been taken over by very macho, aggressive individuals with violent tendencies who cared more about bashing others in than the actual music and sense of community that was prevalent at the shows that were occurring at the turn of the decade. This left those people feeling alienated from what they started. As a response to this, the concept of "Revolution Summer" was birthed. This was a movement that was meant to cause a shift in the DC punk scene, and essentially "take it back" (Get it?). The intention was to eradicate the apathetic attitude that the hardcore scene carried, and make people not only aware of, but to take a stance on social and political issues of the time. These people also had become more interested in exploring new musical ideas than returning to the straight-forward, angst-ridden sound of hardcore. This spawned some incredibly creative and original bands. The first of these being Rites Of Spring. This is not to say they were the ones who initiated this whole movement, they were just the first to get a solid group together. This group just happened to be the best of them all (in my opinion, of course).
When people talk about "bands before their time" or "forward-thinking bands", RoS immediately come to mind. I can only think of a handful of bands that lacked any obvious predecessors. Not a single band was doing what they were. Their music is faintly rooted in hardcore/punk, seeing as that's where they came from, but they emerged with a sound that transcended that. They retained the frantic energy that hardcore produced, but brought a whole new palette of ideas to the music itself. As opposed to the constant punch of hardcore, Rites of Spring began exploring more melodic sensibilities, exemplified in the guitar work in "For Want Of", for example (or almost any song for that matter). Janney and Picciotto's guitar parts weave together so seamlessly, yet never clearly distinguish themselves as "lead" or "rhythm" players. Whether they're attacking power chords, playing melodic lines in conjunction, or exploding in a fury of noise, they are perfectly intertwined and always original, even in the most disjointed parts. Mike Fellows was an incredibly integral component of this band. Balancing root-note rhythms ("Deeper Than Inside") with beautiful bass lines ("Theme") and assaulting riffs ("End on End"), and using these interchangeably, he added a whole other aspect that wasn't present before. Even the drums went beyond the bass-snare-bass-snare-end and into more technical territory, while remaining equally powerful (Canty is an absolutely brilliant drummer). As a group they were brimming with a passion and intensity possibly even greater than what hardcore brought. Every note, no, every sound that escapes them counts as if was their last (cliché, but true in this case). They're putting everything they've got out there, and it resonates. Their shows have become a thing of legend because of how intense they were, and for their tendency to destroy their equipment in an on-stage frenzy. Which brings us to the icing on the cake (hurray for more clichés): the vocals. I am at a loss for words (cliché #3). Picciotto could howl like no other. He let out shrieks that makes the skin shiver. There was certainly something cathartic to them (and to the music itself) that makes you wonder just where he was coming from, seeing as nobody before (and arguably since) had made such heart wrenching sounds before. In almost every song, he totters between singing and screaming. A melody is still distinguishable, yet always sits on the breaking point in an all out scream, which he does employ. And my, does he employ it well. His vocals, married with the band's unmistakable sound, creates a beautiful, chaotic sound only known as "Rites of Spring".
However, unlike hardcore, all of this energy is not directed outwards, but rather inwards. This is where the "emotional" aspect spawned. Of course hardcore and punk are incredibly emotional, this is just what they ended up being labelled as. Rites of Spring are cited as being the first "emo" band. The term's origin is unknown, though two possibilities are it was first used at a RoS show when someone shouted "You guys are so emo!", or used in Thrasher to describe the "new D.C. sound". "Emo" was short for "emocore", which was short for "emotional hardcore". The people in the scene despised the term, evidenced by Ian MacKaye's rant on it and Guy Picciotto's famous quote. Unfortunately, they're stuck with it now. Personally, I don't mind the term as a genre, but tend to associate it with American Football and Sunny Day Real Estate-ish bands, as I believe I've mentioned on here before. If anything, RoS preceded screamo, since that was the only thing that came close to their intensity. I suppose post-hardcore is an accurate label too. Or just keep it simple and call them punk or hardcore. Or whatever, labels don't matter. Anyway, they were labelled this for a reason, and that was that their focus was not on external issues, but rather internal ones. Their lyrics were heavily introspective, and touched upon topics such as personal relationships. They were done in a way that made Picciotto seem incredibly vulnerable and open, which was emphasised by his impeccable delivery. It also helped that the lyrics themselves are (in my opinion, as always) some of the best ever written.Their approach to this was completely new to music: shredding yourself mentally and physically to convey a personal and intimate message. And they certainly accomplished this, paving the way for countless bands to follow.
Rites of Spring's tenure was brief, but legendary. They formed in 1984, and recorded a demo that same year. They immediately caught the attention of Ian MacKaye, who was already legendary due to his work with Minor Threat, and since many of Rites of Spring's members were already regulars of the D.C. scene, as well as having played in other bands prior. They recorded a self-titled LP in 1985 with MacKaye as producer, which was released the same year. Following that, they recorded an EP in January 1986 (the same month they broke up), titled All Through A Life, that wouldn't be released until the following year. Rites of Spring played exactly 14 shows during their existence, and only two were outside the D.C. area. In 1991, Dischord compiled their recorded material on a single album titled End on End, which included one additional song ("Other Way Around") from their LP sessions.
Immediately following their demise, three of their members (Picciotto, Janney, who switched to bass, and Canty) formed One Last Wish, along with Michael Hampton (guitarist from Embrace and The Faith), who's life span was even shorter than Rites of Spring's. They only released one 7" during their time as a band, and recorded an LP that wasn't released until 1999. Their sound was semi-similar to RoS's EP, though wasn't quite as frantic. After the break-up of One Last Wish, the original Rites of Spring line-up reunited to form Happy Go Licky, a radically different band to what they had been doing before. I can't even begin to explain their sound. They, like One Last Wish, didn't last long either. The next band formed with Rites of Spring alumni was this little band called Fugazi, with Brendan Canty and later Guy Picciotto. But they were no big deal or anything. They've been on indefinite hiatus since 2003. Mike Fellows has been involved in numerous projects, though I haven't actually gotten around to hearing any. Brendan, after Fugazi's hiatus, does film scores and is raising a family of four kids, or something. I'm not entirely certainly what Eddie Janney did after Happy Go Licky. I know he contributed some guitar parts to Joe Lally's (Fugazi's bassist) solo albums, but I'm unsure of anything beyond that. Guy Picciotto's been producing numerous records, as well as doing some film work. He also toured and record with Vic Chesnutt before his death (RIP). Oh yes, and he and Brendan were also part of an experimental project called Black Light Panthers from 1982-1997. They released an EP on Picciotto's Peterbilt label (which he created. He also put out joint releases with Dischord for Happy Go Licky's Will Play compilation and One Last Wish's 1986).
'Below is Rites of Spring's discography, including their discography album End on End, their self-titled LP, All Through A Life EP, their 1984 demo, and a live radio session they did for WMUC, the campus radio station of the University Of Maryland.