Review Summary: Serious as a heart attack.
I always liked to think that Minutemen was a breed unlike any other. So unique and complex that no other band would ever be able to produce the same sound; the band was structured in such a confusing nonsensical way that it actually worked. Fusing together genres such as punk, jazz, folk, spoken word, and even funk; it created this weird quirky output that still sparks a burning light in the history of punk that will never be forgotten. While the band attempted heavily to maximize their uncanny music on their first two outings, the band never really reached their full potential until the fiery beast known as Double Nickels on the Dime exploded onto the scene.
It’s hard to necessarily pick out the best moments of Minutemen’s 1984 punk masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime. There are so many outstanding moments that are scrawled across its massive forty-five song set list that it’s blatantly impossible to choose a favorite. It’s like choosing your favorite star in the night sky, just to return the next day and pick a completely different one. The typical song on the album is fast and fun, but it slows down every few songs to give the listener a cautious break, just before they are shot right back into the fire. Spunky guitar lines are replaced by slow guitar picks, while fast paced drum fills are replaced with jazzy cymbal touches. The album runs off of such an idiosyncratic structure that it may be easy to be lost in a quick daze of intrepid thoughts as another guitar solo flies by unexpectedly, just for it to return as a quick ferocious boomerang that shatters their skull in a sublime fashion.
The lyrics are completely surreal and they strike as somewhat thought provoking. Though sometimes highly comedic, the album can take itself pretty seriously while tackling subjects such as racism, the Vietnam War, or even the injustice delivered to the working class. For instance, the punk magnum opus known as “This Ain’t No Picnic” tells the story of a black man being abused by his employer. The dark themes centered around a punk album was rather understandable at the time; as bands such as Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and The Clash all incorporated themes of dark and miserable life styles into their music as well. Yet Minutemen hide their dark and serious themes in the crazed instruments and an obnoxiously loud vocal presentation. Using a stream of conscious lyrical process, the music contrasts so differently to the lyrical content that understanding the meanings of each song is a lot harder then it may seem. It’s a smart way of hiding subjective themes and symbols that it becomes a joy to decrypt such secrets scribbled across the surface.
Double Nickels on the Dime is definitely not a perfect album, as it is marred by a few personal blemishes. The vocal performance can be a lot to take in, as it’s as loud and bombastic as punk vocals can get. Also, the same drum sections and guitar lines can be found recycled from previous songs, but it’s not a common mistake. For the most part, everything here is fine tuned to the best. Minutemen have crafted not only a punk watermark, but an explosive memorial worthy of a legacy.