Government Issue: You
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The context: The punk scene in Washington, D.C., during the '80s produced a disproportionate number of noteworthy musicians and bands, including Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Rites Of Spring, Fugazi, Henry Rollins, Scream, and Government Issue. From its formation in 1980 to its breakup in 1989, G.I. outlasted many of its peer bands, most of which burned brightly, then quickly extinguished. In spite of its longevity and catalogue, G.I. lacks the revered legacy of some of those bands, mostly because it was never as popular, and because frontman John "Stabb" Schroeder gleefully antagonized a scene that took itself—especially its ideals—very seriously. Consequently, G.I. was never a "cool" band, even when it produced one of the scene's best albums, You, in 1987. Although the group began as a typical hardcore outfit, on You, G.I. harnessed a more tuneful, compelling type of melodic punk that gently stretched the genre's boundaries. It paved the way for a style that numerous bands would copy in subsequent years.
The greatness: G.I. headed into more melodic territory on its 1986 self-titled album, but You bears the undeniable influence of new bassist J. Robbins (later of Jawbox, Burning Airlines, and Channels) and drummer Peter Moffett (later of Wool and Burning Airlines). The duo's melodic sensibilities and playing chops greatly improved the group's overall sound, and G.I. came together in a way that made its final lineup—after many incarnations—its best by far. You also shows an ambition its predecessors lacked: "Young Love" has an elaborate coda with backward guitar-playing, and "Wishing" somehow pulls off incorporating electric sitar. You's overall cohesion and stylistic complexity is more advanced than G.I. generally gets credited for.
Defining song: Arriving smack in the middle of the album, "Where You Live" sounds like a 3:16 mini-tour of You, featuring all the elements that make the album so strong. Robbins and guitarist Tom Lyle play complementary parts that weave around each other before locking together in the organ-laced chorus, which provides the album's catchiest moments. But You doesn't have a single dud, and 20 years later, it still sounds relevant.