Unsung Classics, Part 8
The original meaning of the phrase ‘Minutemen’ was ‘[…] members of teams of select men from the American colonial partisan militia during the American Revolutionary War’. But, if you enter […]
The original meaning of the phrase ‘Minutemen’ was ‘[…] members of teams of select men from the American colonial partisan militia during the American Revolutionary War’. But, if you enter the aforementioned phrase into Wikipedia, (which, incidentally, is where I acquired that handy definition), then it also mentions a ‘1980s punk group’. This isn’t too far off, but the summary does something of a disservice to the band. And thus, we arrive conveniently at this week’s album.
Double Nickels on the Dime by Minutemen, 1984, SST
Double Nickels… is broadly categorised as a ‘punk’ album, and while it does have the undeniable thrust and push of that genre, there is an eclectic wealth of influences at work here. Comprised of guitarist/singer D. Boon, who tragically died in 1985, bassist Mike Watt, and drummer George Hurley, Minutemen incorporated funk, country, spoken word and even elements of jazz into this sprawling opus. Boon’s guitar work is quietly excellent; witness the freeform, spindly guitar solos on ‘Shit From An Old Notebook’, the manic energy of cuts such as ‘West Germany’, ‘Toadies’, ‘The Glory Of Man’ and ‘The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts’. One song in particular will prick up your ears, as it’s been used as the Jackass theme song for years – ‘Corona’ holds that particular honour. Amongst the slew of short, wiry, funk-punk songs on this huge, 43-song album, there are moments which break the pace and take you by surprise – ‘Cohesion’, a lovely, lilting acoustic instrumental, and the relaxed ‘There Ain’t Shit On T.V Tonight’ are two of note.
Vocally, Boon owes more to R&B and soul singers than it does your archetypal punk frontman, and he combines his unique style with witty, thought-provoking lyrics. The rhythm section of Watt and Hurley are damn near untouchable, with Watt’s rubbery bass lines snaking around the songs, absolutely in the pocket, and Hurley pulling off fill after fill without once missing a beat. The mix is, at first, a little odd-sounding – Boon’s guitar is pure treble, while Watt and Hurley are much more prevalent in the mix than your usual punk trio. But after listening for a while, you realise that it would sound wrong if it were done any other way, as this is a true representation of the Minutemen – always a team, never treading on each other’s toes or occupying too much of the mix.
Double Nickels… isn’t a perfect album, as there are a few songs which quite simply don’t work. But they are vastly outnumbered by what is an incredibly high level of quality – yes, there are 43 songs here, but there’s more energy and originality on show in this one LP than a lot bands could match over an entire career. If you’re a fan of any post-punk/indie band of the last twenty years, then you really ought to give this album a go. It just might end up becoming one of your favourites.