Review Summary: A perfect stepping stone into the genre.
Is there a more definitive hardcore band then Minor Threat? Possibly, one could argue the influence of the Bad Brains,Black Flag, Cro-Mags or Youth of Today but, when it comes down to it the band that seems to have provided the groundwork for hardcore’s sound is Minor Threat. So back in ’81 a young Ian Mackaye and his cohorts entered a studio to record their first demo. It was scrapped and un-released until 2003, so what does the listener get when they listen to Minor Threat’s first demo?
Well for starters the most obvious element is the lo-fi production. The sound quality is rather muddy and one may see this as a downside but the production assists in creating an atmosphere that captures the essence of DIY punk. In terms of guitar and bass work the EP is solid, although it lacks technicality the song writing holds the EP together.
The drumming similarly is average but overall the EP is tight and stops the lack of innovation from affecting the overall sound. Similarly Ian Mackaye’s vocals are not particularly pretty, however they provide a somewhat anthemic feel to them which again captures the essence of the scene the band helped create.
The EP features some interesting and well constructed hardcore songs, however, the EPis relatively. No song is above 2 minutes in length and only 3 songs breach the 1 minute mark. This can be considered a downside, however with the impressive structure of each song the listener may be able to overlook the shortness and to be honest it could be said that many songs would not work as well if they were longer.
Lyrically the EP provides a somewhat personal look at Ian Mackaye’s life and opinion on American culture at the time. “Guilty of being White” is a song that criticises the idea of reverse-racism making a statement that members of minority races are unfair in their treatment of white people years after oppression had ended. “Straight Edge” is a song responsible for the existence of an entire sub-culture and at the same time a harsh attack on the popular sex, drugs and rock lifestyle portrayed by the media at the time.
Whilst the EP provides an interesting introduction and look at the early 80’s DC hardcore scene there are several factors that may not appeal, for one the songs are not as fast as later Minor Threat releases and in fact this was one of the reasons it was originally scrapped, also as previously stated many people may find the lo-fi production discomforting and Mackaye’s vocals can be abrasive to some. Some listeners may also take offense to the lyrics of “Guilty of being White”, whether or not the song is racist has been debated for years. In fact the somewhat simple yet personal lyrics may not appeal to everyone. Although these issues may affect some listener’s ability to enjoy the music, the EP is still impressive.
Overall Minor Threat’s First Demo provide a look at one of hardcore’s most definitive and important bands, while it may prove to be of lower quality than the band’s later works, those who enjoy Minor Threat and hardcore in general may find this to be a historically important and interesting release and for those trying to get into hardcore the EP is a perfect stepping stone into the genre providing a good look at the “core” sound of the genre.