ARTIST: The Minutemen TITLE: What Makes a Man Start Fires? YEAR RELEASED: 1983 CHART ACTION: None SINGLES: None OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Punkers may know Split Red, 99, Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs LINEUP: D. Boon, Mike Watt, George Hurley. WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Prolific trio releases second full length album (with three EPs in there to boot) and moves toward longer songs and diverse song structures.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: One thing about writing short songs is that you need a lot of them to fill an album side. That’s no problem for the Minutemen. Even with them now focusing on longer songs (two reach over two minutes), there’s still 18 tracks clocking in at 26:05.
This is a leap forward. The band is comfortable shifting from genre to genre, changing tone and structure even within a song, and expanding and exploring their capabilities. Mike Watt wrote most of the music here, so it’s heavy on the bass. Boon sang lead on all of these, and his voice is now more confident and compelling.
With this record, the Minutemen are well on their way to becoming one of the most important US bands of the 80’s.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Two of the EPs listed above are smaller, and not standalone anymore, so I’ll grab them when I do their Post-Mersh compilations.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but you can get it with the Punch Line if you desire.
GRADE: A-: With this many songs, there’s going to be a couple of those that fall short, but of the 18 tracks most are good to great in execution and songwriting.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: The title cut has made its way around compilations and mixes.
LINEUP: D. Boon, Mike Watt, George Hurley
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: 18 songs in 15 minutes.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: When you hear of a band throwing out 18 songs in 15 minutes, you may think that they’re just blasting the punkiest of punk or the deathiest of death metal. But no, the Minutemen do no such thing.
They may write economical songs, but they are varied in tone, style and feel. Yes, almost all of this is political, not personal. (Though Boon would always make the political personal, same with Watt at this stage.)
The brevity makes the hard core leftist politics go down smooth so you don’t even realize it, unless you read the lyrics. Then, Boon and Watt make definite their worldview even with a few lines or words. It’s a darn enjoyable record, helped by its brevity, but hurt by its production. The Minutemen would do better, however, this is as good of a place to start with them as any.
NOTES & MINUTAE: The sound issue can be explained by the economy in which they recorded it – late at night in a cheap studio on used tape. However, for all of that it doesn’t sound horrible – and on cassette it was quite passable.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but it’s combined on a couple different collections.
GRADE: B+: It’s a great introduction to them. A few songs really stick with you.
ARTIST: The Minutemen
TITLE: Paranoid Time
YEAR RELEASED: 1980
CHART ACTION: Nope
SINGLES: This basically was a single – it was a seven track 45RPM EP.
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Joe McCarthy’s Ghost was probably the one anyone really remembers.
LINEUP: D. Boon, Mike Watt, George Hurley
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First release from the prolific and influential trio lays out their political point of view.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Seven songs in 6:40. Yes, the Minutemen is a great band name for them. This first release is more of straight forward punk musically (though you really never could call Watt or D. Boon’s playing punk per-se), with political leanings sometimes to the left of Bernie Sanders.
The production (done at SST Records by Spot – this was the second ever SST record) didn’t allow for overdubs except for vocals. It’s not crisp and clean like some Minutemen records but they cared more about getting the release out the door than niceties.
While not as musically adventurous as other Minutemen releases, this is a good start.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: The talking under Joe McCarthy’s ghost is Watt telling the others what to chant. The tape was rolling for the overdub and they just left it in.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the best way to get this is one of the Post-Merch releases.
GRADE: B: It’s good – a couple of memorable songs and nothing that’s bad.