Friday, February 1, 2008

What's Playing | The Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime

by Steve Pick

Nothing has ever shocked me like the day D. Boon died. I remember going to Mississippi Nights to see Zapp, and having just the greatest time imaginable. Then, I got home late to find a note from my roommate that a friend had called to tell me D. Boon was killed in a car accident.

Not only were the Minutemen probably my favorite band at that time, but I had met D. less than a year before his death, and found him to be one of the most genial, lively, and downright happy people I’d ever met. He was doing something with his life, making a difference, taking apathetic punk rockers and making them think about politics, and taking inquisitive listeners from other worlds and making them think punk could be a lot more than just screaming guitars and vocals.

“Double Nickels on the Dime” was their manifesto, a 43-track, 2 LP response to Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade.” While I loved both records back in 1985, it’s “Double Nickels” that still sends me into spasms of joy. There are moments of filler here and there, but for the most part, these short, pointed songs, many of which were conjured up on short notice to fill out 2 LPs, are powerful constructions.

“History Lesson – Part II.” How can anything so personal be so universal, telling what it means to be young and in love with rock’n’roll and the world? “Our band could be your life.” Hell, yeah, it could, and it could change your life, if you let it.

Corona.” Probably the hit single, especially now that Calexico has covered it. I couldn’t resist the Tex-Mex energy of this one when I first heard it, and it still can make my inner spaz dance maniacally all over the room.

“Maybe Partying Will Help.” An attack on mindlessness as experienced by a youth culture that really didn’t want to know what was going on in the world. D. Boon was committed to stopping US involvement in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and he was committed to having a good time. He just didn’t like those who only wanted to have fun.

Man, the funk of this band. George Hurley’s syncopated, constantly inventive drum chops. Mike Watt’s self-taught and dynamic approach to bass, where he figured he was a lead instrument as well as a propulsive one. And D. Boon’s frantic, hurtling guitar licks, playing rhythm parts that could have gone in any Ohio Players record, and leads that punched you in the gut with their incisiveness and invention. And then, he could turn around and play gorgeous, entirely original quiet tunes, as well.

I’m just saying, this was the band, and this was the record, that defined the 1980s for me. It wasn’t perfect, but it strove for, and it very often achieved, a belief that someday, perfection could be achieved. That this is very far from the world D. Boon envisioned when he died 23 years ago may be sad, but listening to “Double Nickels” at least lets me think some day it could still come.

Here's a promotional video that came out for "This Ain't No Picnic" from "Double Nickels."

And, as always, you can buy this album right from our website.

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