From what I understand, anytime Steve Albini records something, the band is unhappy with the result and decides to change it (see: In Utero). In on the Kill Taker went through this process, and I’m glad they did, because this entire record is unmistakably Fugazi, and I would’ve hated for it to have sounded like someone besides Fugazi playing the songs.
And just like between 7 Songs and Repeater, the band had widened their sound considerably between Repeater and In on the Kill Taker (I haven’t heard much of Steady Diet of Nothing–it’s on my list).
They’re still an angry punk band, but they’re not satisfied to communicate only through either punk or anger. Their broad influences poke themselves in everywhere–on the pop chorus of “Instrument,” the jazz/reggae “Sweet and Low” (which is both), the Sonic Youth-style feedback solo in “23 Beats Off.” And the moods here are subtler as well.
Fugazi started out waving their fists at the Establishment. Here, their youthful rage has had time to take root, reaping a harvest of jadedness and disappointment and cynicism. They’re still out to change the world–they’re just not sure if anyone’s actually going to do about it.
It’s also notable that around this time, they turned down several major label contracts, and still managed to reach break the Billboard 200. Now THAT’s punk rock.