Government Issue performing at the Wilson Center in October 1980, showing members Brian Gay (left) and John Stabb (center)
|Also known as||G.I.|
|Labels||Dischord, Fountain of Youth, Mystic, Giant, DC-Jam Records|
|Associated acts||Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Jawbox, Burning Airlines, The Factory Incident, Office of Future Plans|
Government Issue is an American hardcore punk band from Washington, D.C. active from 1980 to 1989 with a reemergence since 2007 to the present day. The band experienced many changes in membership during its nine-year existence, with singer John Stabb as the only consistent member in an ever-fluctuating lineup that at various times included notable musicians Brian Baker, Mike Fellows, Steve Hansgen, J. Robbins, and Peter Moffett. Government Issue originated from the Washington, D.C. hardcore scene but added elements of heavy metal, new wave, and psychedelic rock on later records. Though this has caused the band to be sometimes overlooked in relation to other Washington, D.C. hardcore acts, their stylistic diversity made them influential to later punk rock groups.
1980–1981: Formation and debut
Government Issue originated in 1980 as The Stab, from which lead singer John Schroeder derived his pseudonym John Stabb. As the members of The Stab drifted apart, Stabb and drummer Marc Alberstadt recruited guitarist John Barry and bassist Brian Gay, changing the band's name to Government Issue. They made their live debut at the two-day Unheard Music Festival in December 1980, but not as Government Issue: Alberstadt was sick and unable to perform, so the band invited guest players to fill in on both nights and performed under the name The Substitutes. The band's second performance was shut down midway by the police.
Government Issue's debut EP Legless Bull was recorded with this original lineup and released through local label Dischord Records in September 1981, after which Gay left to attend college and was replaced by Brian Baker of Minor Threat, who were on hiatus at the time. Baker later recalled that "Ian [MacKaye] and Jeff [Nelson] were gonna start something with Eddie [Janney] and John Falls, so I joined the DC band I liked the best who needed somebody — Government Issue. They were a great band, especially early on." Government Issue also contributed two tracks to Flex Your Head, Dischord's 1982 compilation album of D.C.-area hardcore punk bands.
1981–1985: Lineup and label changes
Lineup shuffles ensued as Barry left the band and Baker moved to guitar, with Tom Lyle joining in late 1981 as the new bassist. Baker later commented that his guitar style did not mesh well with the band's sound: "I wasn't a bass player and Government Issue was a chance to play guitar. They were better with John Barry on guitar but they were biggest when I was in the band. Their whole sound was his insane guitar playing, which I played nothing like. I played like Ace Frehley." The Stabb/Baker/Lyle/Alberstadt lineup of Government Issue recorded the Make an Effort EP, released in 1982 through Fountain of Youth Records. Baker then rejoined Minor Threat in early 1982, recalling that his departure "was amicable after John Stabb calmed down but everyone else understood and didn't have a problem."
Lyle took over the guitar position and Mitch Parker joined on bass for Government Issue's 1983 debut LP Boycott Stabb, which was produced by Ian MacKaye. Rob Moss replaced Parker on bass for a time, before Mike Fellows joined for 1984's Joyride, produced by Brian Baker. Fellows soon moved on to Rites of Spring and was replaced by John Leonard, and the band recorded 1985's The Fun Just Never Ends. Government Issue changed labels from Fountain of Youth to Mystic Records in hopes of better marketing, putting out two more releases in 1985: the EP Give Us Stabb or Give Us Death and the live album Live on Mystic.
1986–1989: Final lineup and breakup
Leonard and Alberstadt left the band during the recording of 1986's eponymous Government Issue, for which the band returned to Fountain of Youth, and the album was completed with drummer Sean Saley and ex-Minor Threat bassist Steve Hansgen. Government Issue saw Stabb moving in a more melodic direction, away from traditional hardcore and taking influence from The Damned's gothic rock sound. Hansgen and Saley subsequently left and were replaced by J. Robbins and Peter Moffett, respectively, and Government Issue moved to Giant Records for 1987's You, an album which chronicled Stabb's relationship with an underage girl. 1988's Crash continued the band's evolution into greater musical variety, and Giant reissued the band's Fountain of Youth releases. However, the band broke up in 1989. According to Robbins, a van accident and creative differences were contributing factors to the breakup:
The end of G.I. was in summer '89. After looking at the situation objectively, having done monster tours of the US and Europe, and after a terrible van accident in England where Pete shattered his ankle, we felt we were beating our heads against the wall. It was clear that all four of us had different ideas of what we wanted to do. I think those guys just got tired of working with each other. We booked one last show at 9:30 Club, which was massive, ridiculous, and fun. That was it.
Post-breakup activity and reformation
Following Government Issue's breakup the members moved on to other musical projects. Lyle released a solo album titled Sanctuary in 1992. Robbins founded Jawbox while Moffett joined Wool, and the two later reunited in Burning Airlines. Stabb reverted to his given name, playing with several Washington, D.C.-area bands in the 1990s before forming The Factory Incident in 2000. Currently, Stabb also plays with the Washington, DC based band History Repeated.
Over a decade after the band's dissolution, a number of compilation albums and reissues of their material began to be released. In 2000 Dr. Strange Records released the career retrospective Complete History Volume One, followed by Complete History Volume Two in 2002. Dischord Records reissued Legless Bull in 2002 while Dr. Strange released Strange Wine: Live at CBGB August 30th, 1987 in 2003, consisting of live recordings and studio tracks remastered by Tom Lyle. 2005 saw the release of the DVD Live 1985.
On July 17, 2007 John Stabb was assaulted by five men near his home and required extensive facial reconstruction surgery. To help pay for his medical bills and lost wages, a benefit concert was held on September 23, 2007 which featured a reunited lineup of Stabb, Tom Lyle, and Brian Baker, joined by drummer William Knapp, performing as "Government Re-Issue". A portion of the proceeds from the 2007 Riot Fest concert were donated to Stabb to pay for his medical bills, as well as to J. Robbins, whose son had been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. In 2009 DC-Jam Records released The Punk Remains the Same, an EP of live Government Issue tracks recorded in 1982 and 1983.
In early 2014 Government Issue reformed to play DC's Damaged City festival with Stabb, original guitarist John Barry, original bassist Brian Gay, and Karl Hill on drums. The band reverted to the rawer more chaotic hardcore sound of the Legless Bull era. As Gay lived in Chicago and was only going to be in Washington, DC for a few days to practice and play the festival, S. Dwayne Bruner (latebloomer, Cross My Heart, Choker) was recruited to play bass for rehearsals. The band has played several shows since Damaged City with Barry on guitar, Hill on drums, and Bruner on bass. They have also adopted a more diverse setlist playing songs from the entire catalog of GI records.
Style and influence
Though Government Issue began as a hardcore punk act, over time their music evolved to incorporate other styles. Steven Blush, author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, writes that they "vied with Minor Threat as the top [Washington, D.C. hardcore] band in 1981–1982" and that Legless Bull "best exemplified smartass suburban HC." But by 1982, with Brian Baker and Tom Lyle in the lineup, the band began to develop a sound more akin to heavy rock than pure hardcore. Steve Huey of Allmusic notes that the band "carried the torch for traditional hardcore punk on their early records, but evolved into something more adventurous by adding bits of metal, new wave pop, and psychedelia".
By 1986's Government Issue Stabb was moving in a more melodic direction influenced by the gothic rock of The Damned, and by 1988's Crash the group was at its most musically diverse. Stabb himself later remarked that Government Issue "proved that we were more than just a hardcore band. We'd graduated from the school of 'bang and howl' and we really bummed out a small portion of our punk audience", and that "we'd moved on from the hardcore world into melodic, well-crafted punk with a decidedly pop edge." Aaron Burgess of Alternative Press notes that the continual evolution in sound over the band's nine-year lifespan made their music more influential to later generations of punk rock groups:
Though they started out playing solid, standard-issue melodic hardcore, Government Issue weren't afraid to let their outside influences, no matter how incongruous, infect their music—or, in Stabb's case, their look, as well [...] So, while Stabb's hairdos and stage clothes got increasingly kookier, so did the band's music draw ideas from pop, goth, psychedelia, Middle Eastern music and beyond. And while changes like these could seem like sellout moves for a group that once wrote a song called "Rock 'N' Roll Bullshit", they were a vital next step in the evolution of [insert whatever eclectic punk CD you're listening to today].
However, though they did have a following in the straight edge community, Government Issue's stylistic expansion from one album to the next alienated much of their early hardcore audience. Blush writes that "Unfortunately, most who went to see G.I. through the 80s still expected to hear hardcore reminiscent of the first EP. The group was moving into a softer, R.E.M. direction, and none of their fans gave a shit about such profound maturity." Huey remarks that the band "has remained somewhat overlooked in relation to the rest of the D.C. hardcore bands of their time, in part because their music never really fit the proto-emo bent of much of the local Dischord stable", while Burgess notes that they nonetheless "made history in their own way by never fitting into the scene most people naturally associated with their city."
|Nov. 1981–Apr. 1982
Make an Effort
|Apr. 1982–Summer 1983
|Fall 1983–Spring 1984
|Spring 1984–Jan. 1986
The Fun Just Never Ends
Give Us Stabb or Give Us Death
Live on Mystic
Strange Wine E.P.
|2007 reunion show
(as Government Re-Issue)
|2010 reunion show||
|2014 reunion show||
|Early 2015 shows||
|August 21, 2015 (Skull Fest Pittsburgh, PA)||
- Boycott Stabb (1983)
- Joyride (1984)
- The Fun Just Never Ends (1985)
- Government Issue (1986)
- You (1987)
- Crash (1988)
- Live on Mystic (1985)
- Best of Government Issue Live (1994)
- Strange Wine: Live at CBGB August 30th, 1987 (2003)
- Legless Bull (1981)
- Make an Effort (1982)
- Give Us Stabb or Give Us Death (1985)
- Strange Wine E.P. (1988)
- The Punk Remains the Same (2009)
- No Way Out 82 (1990)
- Finale (1991)
- Beyond (1991)
- Joyride / The Fun Just Never Ends (1995)
- The Mystic Years (1995)
- Complete History Volume One (2000)
- Complete History Volume Two (2002)
- Boycott Stabb Complete Sessions (2010)
- Live 1985 (2005)
- A HarD.C.ore Day's Night (2008)
- Huey, Steve. "Government Issue Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
- Burgess, Aaron (October 2005). "I Don't Know, Ask That Guy: Please Understand: Government Issue Is the Only DC Hardcore Band You Still Need to Hear". Alternative Press (Cleveland: Alternative Press Magazines Inc.) (207). ISSN 1065-1667.
- "Government Issue". Dischord Records. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. New York: Feral House. pp. 313–314. ISBN 0-922915-71-7.
- Blush, p. 143
- Blush, p. 147.
- Rabid, Jack. "Review: Complete History Volume Two". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
- "Complete History Volume One". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-03-03.
- "Government Issue re-release on Dr. Strange". Punknews.org. 2003-06-01. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "Government Issue Live 1985 DVD set for release". Punknews.org. 2005-03-29. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "John Stabb of Government Issue assaulted, undergoing surgery". Punknews.org. 2007-07-22. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "Most of Government Issue to reunite for upcoming John Stabb benefit". Punknews.org. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- Paul, Aubin (2007-09-12). "Naked Raygun, D4, Stiff Little Fingers, Bad Brains, Copyrights, Casualties at Riot Fest 2007". Punknews.org. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- Scales, Mike (2007-09-12). "Naked Raygun, Bad Brains to headline Riot Fest 2007". Alternative Press. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "New Government Issue EP now available". Punknews.org. 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "Stabb" Schroeder, John (2000). Complete History Volume One (CD booklet). Government Issue. Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, California: Dr. Strange Records. p. 16. DSR81.
- "Stabb" Schroeder, John (2002). Complete History Volume Two (CD booklet). Government Issue. Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, California: Dr. Strange Records. p. 3. DSR82.