When Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson began releasing punk-rock records 22 years ago, they had little more than passion to go on: Little infrastructure existed for small labels that wanted to get their records out to their tiny pool of potential listeners. That wasn't a major concern, since MacKaye and Nelson simply wanted a document of their soon-to-be-defunct hardcore band, The Teen Idles. An eight-song seven-inch called Minor Disturbance was released in late 1980 as Dischord No. 1, and it was the start of something hugely influential, but deliberately small in scope: Dischord Records only releases music by bands from the D.C. area, and never practices the "hard sell." The label, buoyed largely by two of MacKaye's later bands, Minor Threat and Fugazi, became (somewhat ironically) a brand name to trust, simply because it stuck to its original ideals. Along with SST and Sub Pop, Dischord attracted fans willing to bank on its taste: If a record came out on Dischord, it was worth hearing. But unlike its peers, the label kept things small and familiar. The first two discs of the label's anniversary compilation 20 Years Of Dischord gather, in roughly chronological order, one track from each band that appeared on the label from 1980 to 2000. Tracking through the progression from straight-ahead punk to smart, angular rock is like watching time-lapse photography, and MacKaye's own musical progression is particularly clear, since he's in six of the 50 bands, and he produced or co-produced almost half of this compilation's songs. Surprisingly few of the 50 have been altogether lost to history, especially considering that of all the Dischord bands, only Jawbox and Shudder To Think ever left the label for a major. This collection could and should inspire some digging into the label's deeper catalog, since great records by bands like Scream (D.C.'s answer to The Clash) and The Nation Of Ulysses (whose sound inspires a hundred bands today) are still available, and always at a low price, postage paid from the same address as 20 years ago. A third disc, aimed at the hardcore fans, collects rare and unreleased material from the Dischord archive. Nothing earth-shattering remained in the vaults this long, but a few notable tracks appear, including an unreleased Fugazi song ("The Word"), a track from the jokey supergroup Rozzlyn Rangers, and Minor Threat's dub-reggae version of Government Issue's "Asshole." Dischord also comes with a 134-page book chronicling each band's history with text and dozens of great photos, including a funny "then-and-now" shot of MacKaye and Nelson sitting in a cramped office. MacKaye's longtime friend Henry Rollins (who, as Henry Garfield, sang for the early Dischord band S.O.A.) provides the introduction, and even though he's taken a more elastic approach to punk ethics, he sums up Dischord nicely, recognizing the label's unbeatable combination of taste and integrity.

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