For Gaudete Sunday
Sunday Night Journal — December 16, 2007

Music of the Week — December 16, 2007

Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime

Continuing my investigation of punk classics, I arrive at this collection of 43 songs averaging something less than two minutes each in length, some under a minute. Aside from the brevity of the songs, the punk-ness here seems more a matter of attitude than sound. Musically, they remind me of something else—two somethings, actually: an artist and a style. The artist is Captain Beefheart; the style is math-rock.

As with Beefheart, the “songs” are bursts of often-intricate instrumental activity overlaid with fairly tuneless vocal lines, but without the Captain’s bizarre charisma and skill in the latter department. The result is more interesting than it sounds, mainly because the Minutemen have some very impressive instrumental chops—that’s where the math-rock parallel comes in, and in fact one of the songs refers to the Minutemen’s music as “scientist rock.” Frankly, the short songs are a good idea, because most of them would become tiresome if they went on much longer. Lyrically the band leans heavily on vaguely political ranting about the oppressiveness of American life, but they do it with a certain amount of humor that makes it, again, less dull than it might be.

I’m afraid I can’t go much further in the way of praise than “interesting,” though. There’s just not much here that touches me at any deep level. I stuck to my self-imposed requirement of listening to it three reasonably attentive times before committing myself to an opinion, but although I enjoyed the album it’s entirely possible that I may never listen to it again. Or at least not the whole thing: I’ll probably go back to a few nuggets, like “Take 5, D.,” a very funny recitation of what appears to be a note from a landlord (or landlady). Or “Maybe Partying Will Help”:

As I look over this beautiful land
I can’t help but realize that I am alone…
Maybe partying will help.

Samples at the eMusic page; you can actually hear a 30-second sample of a 46-second song.



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