(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Punch Line , 7/10
What Makes A Man Start Fires , 7/10
Buzz Or Howl , 6/10
Double Nickels On The Dime , 9/10
3-Way Tie , 6/10

The Minutemen, boasting one of hardcore's most competent and creative line-ups (Dennes Boon on guitar, George Hurley on drums and Mike Watt on bass), wove a spiderweb of soul, jazz, funk and rock'n'roll around their syncopated, fractured, disjointed tunes. Borrowing the pagan impetus from hardcore, the harsh quirkiness from the new wave and the cerebral, and the convoluted indulgence from progressive-rock, the Minutemen concocted the miniature hardcore shrapnels of Punch Line (feb 1981 - nov 1981) and What Makes A Man Start Fires (jul/aug 1982 - jan 1983). The acrobatic primitivism of these albums became even more neurotic and atonal on Double Nickels On The Dime (nov 1983/apr 1984 - jul 1984), one of the most ambitious recordings of the decade, a veritable encyclopedia of musical styles revisited from the point of view of a spastic genius reminiscent of Captain Beefheart and the Pop Group.

After Boon's untimely death in 1985, the survivors hired a new vocalist, renamed themselves fIREHOSE (1), released Ragin' Full On (oct 1986 - nov 1986) and pursued a more conscious program to refound the song format, except that R.E.M.-like folk-rock took over Minutemen's unpredictable structures.

(Translated from my original Italian text by DommeDamian)

Perhaps not the most influential, but by far the most creative group in punk music, Minutemen have taken their moves from the primitivism of Beefheart and from the jazz-funk-punk of the Pop Group, rummaging through the game bag of thirty years of rock and elaborating a harmonic synthesis that freely reinterprets that tradition. In particular, Boon's guitarism challenges Jeff Cotton's one of the most paradoxical ever.

The Minutemen (Dennes Boon on guitar, George Hurley on drums and Mike Watt on bass) hailed from San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles. The trio began with the lapidary, dissonant and syncopated hardcore of the EP Paranoid Time (SST, 1980). The agitated Paranoid Chant, the humorous Maze, the instrumental Sickes And Hammers and the jazzy Fascist proposed instrumental gestures that are difficult to assimilate to the ethics of punk-rock. The highly politicized perspective of these songs interpreted hardcore according to the gospel of the Dead Kennedys .

Punch Line (SST, 1981) is the manifesto of their miniaturized hardcore (the average length of the songs is one and a half minutes) which is expressed through violent webs of soul, jazz, funk and rock and roll. The Minutemen strafe tiny and disjointed passages, the musical and dramatic development of which is barely sketched, deliberately aborted, according to a primitivist technique that denies the value of communicativeness in favor of an introversion as disconnected as it is stubborn. The "form" is that of beach punk: a synthetic concision bordering on pure nervous tic; but the content is anything but, very far from the outbursts of abrasive violence of the Germs. Each fragment is complete in itself and has no other meaning than its own incompleteness. Watt's bass is the most visible instrument, constantly mobile and flexible, able to lead the melody as well as beat the rhythm, a bit like Jack Bruce did in Cream; Hurley's drums alternate circus reels with acrobatic slam dances, Indian dances to swinging tempos; and Boon's edgy guitar punctuates the choruses with its shrill dissonances.
In this excited soundscape floundering funk (SearchStatic), sardonic rockabilly (Punch Line), jazz-rock (TensionMonument) and emphatic and galloping thrash punk (Games and No Parade), but also lighthearted marches from music hall (History LessonStruggle) and hypnotic and tribal voodoobilly (Straight JacketBoiling). The fragmentarism of the Minutemen descends from the laconic solipsism of the Teenage Jesus, the violent funk-punk of the Pop Group, the anemic "no-rock" of DNA and the abstract aphorisms of Beefheart.

In What Makes A Man Start Fires (SST, 1982) the sound becomes more full-bodied and neurasthenic. Boon's guitar, worthy of competing with Arto Lindsay's, dares solos and melodies to the limit of the continuous stick, giving a more distinctive character to the music (in Beacon Sighted Through Fog and Polarity the tornadoes of the most absurd dissonances). Hurley gives a spectacular solo of tribal primitivism (Pure Joy) and juggles the most diverse rhythms with great eclecticism. The lyrics are no longer free associations to the surrealist, but free beat narratives to Ginsberg. Some more melodic songs can even be defined as "songs" (99, almost beat; Sell ​​Or Be Sold, almost psychedelic; One Chapter In The Book, almost power-pop), and someone, out of anger and emphasis, combines very well folk and punk inflections Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs ). There are many harmonic plots that "quote", devastating them, rock genres and manners of the time: the Lounge Lizards (the cacophonic bebop of Split Red ), the Talking Heads (the martial reels of Anchor), the Sonic Youth (the Colors' hypnotic nightmare ), the Cramps ( Plight's voodoobilly psychodrama ), Television (the transcendent riff of Life As Rehearsal ), the Gun Club (the epileptic blues-rock of This Road).

The mini-album Buzz Or Howl (1983), with the first song beyond three minutes, Little Man With A Gun, completely emancipates them from the no wave model, revealing more marked debts towards James Brown's visceral funk (Dream Told By Moto and I Feel Like A Gringo) and letting you glimpse emotions, for the first time, behind the cerebral harmony.

The fusion of jazz-funk and punk-rock comes to perfection with the double Double Nickels On The Dime (SST, 1984), which contains 45 disjointed pieces. Each is a condensation of polemical fury and "wit", now solidly structured on their dissonant jazz-funk, a gaunt and more analytical rambling than any other punk idiom, ever further away from the epileptic and reboating hurricane of hardcore. The album features more than one ripe fruit of their experimentalism: the catchy pop-vaudeville melody of My Heart And The Real World , an acoustic guitar-only ballad like Cohesion , a wild Tex-Mex polka like Corona ,Jesus And Tequila. The quotes, always camouflaged in their primitivist style, are once again endless: the protest folk a la Dylan of Themselves, the neurotic funk a la Chance of Vietnam , the soul-rock a la Hendrix of It's Expected I'm Gone , the country ballad- Rock to the Young of N.1 Hit Song , the blues to the Beefheart of Big Foist and the psychedelic riff to Pink Floyd of Two Beads At The End . The arduous harmonic experimentation of their dissonant art-funk is condensed in Glory Of Man , in the blues-rock jam Mr Robot's Holy Orders , in the mini-piece for noises, scat and percussion only.You Need The Glory and in the exotic instrumental Love Dance that concludes the work. Boon showed rock solos on Maybe Partying Will Help and The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts . Double Nickels is proposed as an encyclopedia of ideas to follow.
A very exploited "way" is that of metal-punk with declamatory emphasis, who update, in their own way, the genre of the militant ballad: Political Song For Michael Jackson To SingThis Ain't No Picnic and Untitled Song For Latin America. A separate chapter are, in fact, the lyrics, politicized and existential, among which there are thoughts like "I am the cess-pool for all the shit to run down in" and the immortal martial slogan of World According To Nounds : "The how the where the when the who / can these words find the truth?". It is one of the most difficult albums of the punk era, quite possibly the Trout Mask Replica of punk.

Subsequent albums, while maintaining a decent standard, will not be able to repeat this summit. Project Mersh (1985) is surprisingly composed of six "long" tracks, including a fiatistic rhythm and blues / jazz-rock a la Chicago Cheerleaders ), a college student country (Take Our Test) an autobiographical ballad by Watt (Tour Spiel) and a psychedelic coda (More Spiel).

3-Way Tie (SST, 1985) abandons primitivism altogether, with the mutant polka of What Is It (worthy of Jonathan Richman), the breezy country-blues protest Big Stick (a la Country Joe), No One (a violent rap-metal at Run DMC). Political Nightmare is the most rock song, Price Of Paradise the most poignant ballad, Couragethe most impressive wall of free-form sound. Once the traditional song-form has been restored, the album seems to want to demonstrate their eclecticism by spanning a very broad front of genres, with strong discontinuities between song and song. And it seems to want to demonstrate their political commitment, with texts so explicit as to resemble the sermons of Jello Biafra.

Boon, a rowdy and exuberant singer like few others, was also a poet devoted to public "readings", where he dispenses the same populist philosophy of the ensemble. However, he died in a car accident in December 1985.

After playing in Dos duo with Black Flag's Kira (his future wife), Watt forms fIREHOSE

 , with Hurley and Ed Crawford, retaining the structure and sound of the Minutemen.
Forse il trio piu` creativo della storia del rock, i Minutemen hanno preso le mosse dal primitivismo di Beefheart e dal jazz-funk-punk del Pop Group, rovistando nel carniere di trent'anni di rock ed elaborando una sintesi armonica che reinterpreta liberamente quella tradizione. In particolare, il chitarrismo di Boon va a sfidare quello di Jeff Cotton fra i piu` paradossali di sempre.

I Minutemen (Dennes Boon alla chitarra, George Hurley alla batteria e Mike Watt al basso) provenivano da San Pedro, il porto di Los Angeles. Il trio esordi` con l'hardcore lapidario, dissonante e sincopato dell'EP Paranoid Time (SST, 1980). L'esagitata Paranoid Chant, l'umoristica Maze, lo strumentale Sickes And Hammers e la jazzata Fascist proponevano gesti strumentali difficilmente assimilabili all'etica del punk-rock. L'ottica fortemente politicizzata di questi brani interpretava l'hardcore secondo il vangelo dei Dead Kennedys.

Punch Line (SST, 1981) e` il manifesto del loro hardcore miniaturizzato (la durata media dei brani e` sul minuto e mezzo) che si esprime per violente ragnatele di soul, jazz, funk e rock and roll. I Minutemen mitragliano brani minuscoli e disarticolati, il cui svolgimento musicale e drammatico e` appena abbozzato, volutamente abortito, secondo una tecnica primitivista che rinnega il valore della comunicativita` a favore di un'introversione tanto sconnessa quanto pervicace. La "forma" e` quella del beach punk: una concisione sintetica al limite del puro tic nervoso; ma il contenuto e` tutt'altro, lontanissimo dalle scariche di violenza abrasiva dei Germs. Ogni frammento e` in se` compiuto e non ha altro senso al di fuori della propria incompiutezza. Il basso di Watt e` lo strumento piu` in vista, costantemente mobile e flessibile, capace di condurre la melodia come di battere il ritmo, un po' come faceva Jack Bruce nei Cream; la batteria di Hurley alterna rulli da circo equestre ad acrobatiche slam dance, danze di pellerossa a tempi swinganti; e la chitarra tagliente di Boon punteggia i ritornelli con le sue stridule dissonanze.
In questo concitato panorama sonoro annaspano funk (Search, Static), rockabilly sardonico (Punch Line), jazz-rock (Tension, Monument) e thrash punk enfatico e galoppante (Games e No Parade), ma anche marcette scanzonate da music hall (History Lesson, Struggle) e ipnotici e tribali voodoobilly (Straight Jacket, Boiling). Il frammentarismo dei Minutemen discende dal solipsismo laconico dei Teenage Jesus, dal violento funk-punk del Pop Group, dall'anemico "no-rock" dei DNA e dagli aforismi astratti di Beefheart.

In What Makes A Man Start Fires (SST, 1982) il sound si fa piu` corposo e nevrastenico. La chitarra di Boon, degna di competere con quella di Arto Lindsay, osa assoli e melodie al limite della stecca continuata, conferendo un carattere piu` distintivo alla musica (in Beacon Sighted Through Fog e Polarity i tornado di dissonanze piu` assurdi). Hurley da` un assolo spettacolare di primitivismo tribale (Pure Joy) e si destreggia con grande eclettismo fra i ritmi piu` diversi. Le liriche non sono piu` associazioni libere alla surrealista, ma libere narrazioni beat alla Ginsberg. Qualche brano, piu` melodico, puo` persino essere definito "canzone" (99, quasi beat; Sell Or Be Sold, quasi psichedelico; One Chapter In The Book, quasi power-pop), e qualcuno, per rabbia ed enfasi, coniuga benissimo inflessioni folk e punk (Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs). Non poche sono le trame armoniche che "citano", devastandoli, generi e maniere rock dell'epoca: i Lounge Lizards (il bebop cacofonico di Split Red), i Talking Heads (i rulli marziali di Anchor), i Sonic Youth (l'incubo ipnotico di Colors), i Cramps (lo psicodramma voodoobilly di Plight), i Television (il riff trascendente di Life As Rehearsal), i Gun Club (il blues-rock epilettico di This Road).

Il mini-album Buzz Or Howl (1983), con la prima canzone oltre i tre minuti, Little Man With A Gun, li emancipa del tutto dal modello della no wave, rivelando debiti piu` marcati verso il funk viscerale di James Brown (Dream Told By Moto e I Feel Like A Gringo) e lasciando intravedere emozioni, per la prima volta, dietro la cerebralita` delle armonie.

La fusion di jazz-funk e punk-rock giunge alla perfezione con il doppio Double Nickels On The Dime (SST, 1984), che contiene ben 45 disarticolati pezzi. Ciascuno e` un condensato di furia polemica e "wit", ormai solidamente strutturato sul loro jazz-funk dissonante, un farnetico scarno e piu` analitico di ogni altro idioma punk, sempre piu` lontano dall'uragano epilettico e reboante dell'hardcore. L'album presenta piu` di un frutto maturo del loro sperimentalismo: l'orecchiabile melodia pop-vaudeville di My Heart And The Real World, una ballata per sola chitarra acustica come Cohesion, una scatenata polka tex-mex come Corona, un garage-rock melodico come Storm In The House e un country-blues sudista come Jesus And Tequila. Le citazioni, sempre mimetizzate nel loro stile primitivista, sono di nuovo infinite: il folk di protesta alla Dylan di Themselves, il funk nevrotico alla Chance di Vietnam, il soul-rock alla Hendrix di It's Expected I'm Gone, la ballata country-rock alla Young di N.1 Hit Song, il blues caracollante alla Beefheart di Big Foist e il riff psichedelico alla Pink Floyd di Two Beads At The End. L'arduo sperimentalismo armonico del loro art-funk dissonante e` condensato in Glory Of Man, nella jam di blues-rock Mr Robot's Holy Orders, nella mini-piece per soli rumori, scat e percussioni di You Need The Glory e nello strumentale esotico Love Dance che conclude l'opera. Boon sfodera assoli granitici in Maybe Partying Will Help e The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts. Double Nickels si propone come un'enciclopedia di spunti a seguire.
Una "maniera" molto sfruttata e` quella dei metal-punk con enfasi declamatoria, che aggiornano, a modo loro, il genere della ballata militante: Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing, This Ain't No Picnic e Untitled Song For Latin America. Un capitolo a parte sono, infatti, le liriche, politicizzate ed esistenziali, fra le quali si contano pensieri come "I am the cess-pool for all the shit to run down in" e l'immortale slogan marziale di World According To Nounds: "The how the where the when the who/ can these words find the truth?". E' uno degli album piu` difficili dell'era punk, quasi il Trout Mask Replica del punk.

Gli album successivi, pur mantenendosi su uno standard decoroso, non riusciranno a ripetere questo vertice. Project Mersh (1985) e` composto, a sorpresa, da sei "lunghi" brani, fra cui un rhythm and blues/ jazz-rock fiatistico alla Chicago (Cheerleaders), un country goliardico da college (Take Our Test) una ballad autobiografica di Watt (Tour Spiel) e una coda psichedelica (More Spiel).

3-Way Tie (SST, 1985) abbandona del tutto il primitivismo, con la polka mutante di What Is It (degna di Jonathan Richman), lo spigliato country-blues di protesta Big Stick (alla Country Joe), No One (un violento rap-metal alla Run DMC). Political Nightmare e` il brano piu` rock, Price Of Paradise la ballad piu` struggente, Courage il muro del suono free-form piu` imponente. Restaurata la tradizionale forma-canzone, l'album sembra voler dimostrare il loro eclettismo spaziando su un fronte molto ampio di generi, con forti discontinuita` fra brano e brano. E sembra voler dimostrare il loro impegno politico, con testi tanto espliciti da assomigliare ai sermoni di Jello Biafra.

Boon, cantante scalmanato ed esuberante come pochi, era anche un poeta dedito ai "reading" pubblici, dove dispensa la stessa filosofia populista del complesso. Mori` pero` in un incidente stradale nel dicembre del 1985.

Dopo aver suonato nel duo Dos con Kira dei Black Flag (sua futura moglie), Watt forma i fIREHOSE, con Hurley e Ed Crawford, conservando la struttura e il sound dei Minutemen.

What is unique about this music database