BECAUSE Government Issue, a D.C. hardcore punk group, has a reputation for abandoned and explosive performances, the idea of a live recording makes sense. Hardcore uses noise as a weapon of liberation, so why not capture some of that noise and liberation at a show?

Unfortunately, "Government Issue Live!" was recorded at nine different shows, and the resulting sound quality is so poor and uneven that the group's cathartic roar is reduced to a dull throb.

When the sound is decent here, you can at least understand what the crowd is screaming about. John Stabb is more of an over-the-edge performer than singer, but on "Next Time" and "Hall of Fame," his monotonous ranting reveals a wicked sarcasm and irony. Also, on a cut like "Understand," Tom Lyle's ferocious guitar feedback and power chords provide the muscular presence needed to raise this group's sound above plain hardcore punk.

Much more impressive is Marginal Man's "Double Image," an album that reflects this D.C. group's growth from hardcore punk to a more expressive style of its own. The group's dual guitar attack provides flexibility, and the band skillfully integrates buzzing rhythm chords with fluid psychedelic and hard metal lead work. To the group's credit, its concern for instrumental color, as well as song structure and melody, never undermines the punky intensity of its delivery.

In songs like "Tell Me" and "Double Image," Marginal Man's ability to fit bright pop tunes into a speedy punk framework is reminiscent of the Ramones or even local heroes, the Slickee Boys. Though neither Steve Polcari nor Peter Murray is a distinctive singer, the group's musical imagination more than compensates. It allows "Double Image" to convincingly conjure a dark and mysterious emotional terrain.

GOVERNMENT ISSUE -- "Government Issue Live!" (Mystic MLP 33144). MARGINAL MAN -- "Double Image" (Enigma 72045-1); both groups appear Friday night, along with the Slickee Boys, New Keys, Carl Malcolm and Unconquered People, in a Rock Against Apartheid fundraiser at Lisner Auditorium.