The Minutemen

Double Nickels On The Dime (SST ’84) Rating: A
Released the same month on the same label as Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, Double Nickels On The Dime had a lot to live up to. And at first I was a little off put by the band’s hyper, offbeat sound, and by the way they breathlessly rush from song to song, and style to style. Another problem I had (indeed, the problem I have with 90% of all punk bands) is that as a singer D. Boon is one helluva guitar player. But his voice has grown on me, and the vocals are secondary, anyway, because this tight little trio can tackle any musical style, as bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley are every bit Boon’s equal, if not more so. Of course, it is Boon who solos extensively throughout the album, but never in an excessive manner, as the songs are typically short. The song titles alone (“Shit From An Old Notebook,” “Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing,” “Maybe Partying Will Help,” “The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts,” “Please Don’t Be Gentle With Me,” “There Ain’t Shit On T.V. Tonight,” “Untitled Song For Latin America”) demonstrate the band’s alternately playful and political bent, but either way the writing is always sharp and focused. I also can’t help but be impressed by the band’s fluid, funky interplay, which owes as much to jazz as to punk. Yet The Minutemen were a punk band, at least if you define punk as “anything goes” rather than “three chords played fast with a snot nosed attitude.” Then again, to label The Minutemen as anything would be a mistake, for they were truly unique musical plunderers of a vast assortment of styles. Now, I’m not going to lie and say that I get off on all 43 (45 on the original vinyl/cassette version of the album) of these songs, some of which fly by all too briefly. But I do enjoy an extremely high percentage of them - maybe in five years or so I’ll be able to make out a definitive list of highlights - and I’m quite sure that a) I’ll probably never fully digest or comprehend this all-over-the-place album, and b) I’ll probably never tire of it, either, or cease to discover fascinating new ideas and details within its seemingly effortless, and effortlessly fun, 74+ minutes. Alas, one year after crafting this singular achievement - a flawed masterpiece that’s almost universally hailed as the band’s best album - D. Boon died in an automobile accident, and The Minutemen were no more.

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