Spring’s Eternal

October 23, 2012

After poet T.S. Eliot saw Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in 1921, he wrote a letter saying the avant-garde ballet took “the barbaric cries of modern life” and transformed “these despairing noises into music.”

D.C. punk band Rites of Spring engaged in similar sonic alchemy during its brief run (1984-86), helping shift hard-core punk’s lyrical narrative from anti-authoritarian rants to introspective songs influenced by poetry — including Eliot’s.

Rites of Spring’s explosive self-titled 1985 LP captures the emotional turmoil of 20-year-old singer-guitarist Guy Picciotto (pictured, airborne), who’d later join seminal D.C. band Fugazi, in songs that are intensely raw but undeniably catchy. The group released only 17 songs, but Rites of Spring’s influence on punk runs deep, which is why the new “Six Song Demo” is an important addition to the canon.

The 1984 recording was made before Rites of Spring had played live, so the songs don’t feature the furious abandon the band displayed on stage. But no matter: Just as Eliot scholars pore over manuscript drafts of “The Waste Land,” punk-rock musicologists will study every different cadence on “Six Song Demo.”

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Vicky Hallett | October 23, 2012