“Double Nickels on the Dime” by the Minutemen – Review

 

Double Nickels.jpg

I would like to call it a heady triumph of fusion and experimentation, a great blow struck for all creative musicians. I would like to say it enchants me all the way through and simultaneously challenges the brain while blasting forward with rockin’ propulsion and blistering leftist rants. And truly, it does all of these things. But only at various points in its eighty-odd minutes.

I wonder who thought it was a good idea for the Minutemen, whose name describes their work more or less exactly (only eleven of the forty-five original tracks exceed 1:59), to fill a pair of forty-minute discs with songs. Apparently it had something to dĂĽ with the Huskers (ha ha. i am funny) but I don’t care. It was a just plain bad idea to make a double album of tightly structured punk songs. The result is wildly uneven and makes for a hair-tearing denunciation, as I am forced to rip on an album that contains songs on the order of “Vietnam”, “Corona”, “No Exchange”, “One Reporter’s Opinion”, “Storm In My House” and “Maybe Partying Will Help”. May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I fail to make clear how incredible parts of it are.

The first side, for instance, is the best by far. Thirteen pieces encompass uninterrupted rock brilliance: slamming, funky, speedy, complex in that tasty jazzy way, and above all fun. Driving music for the ages. Legend has it that guitarist D. Boon got to pick all the songs for this side, and it is abundantly clear that he had the best ear in the band (and he produced the only good “solo” track). Starts great, ends fantastically and rides high in the middle. If I were in charge of editing the album the entire side would stay.

Side Mike (after the bassist, of course) is more obstinately goofy, alternating between sort of interesting dissonant puzzles (“Toadies”, “God Bows to Math”), Creedence choogle (“The Big Foist”, “Michael Jackson”) and wordy quiet songs (“Retreat”, “Maybe Partying Will Help”). Mike gets a lot of credit for being the band’s lyricist and one of the best bassists in punk and probably in rock as well; I submit that he should have probably stayed there more often — he composed the majority of the second side by himself, pausing only to throw us Boon’s “Corona” as a tuneful bone. These are mostly good songs, but they are only sometimes as good as the first quarter of the record.

The third side begins with a free-improvisation piece that verily necessitates the invention of the term “avant-garbage”. I will not speak its name.

Its other songs are of generally high quality, and only the first unmentionable track is less than awesome. In conclusion, George Hurley is the only Minuteman who should never be allowed to say “guys, I have an idea” during rehearsal. (just kidding, he’s probably a very nice man in person)

Side four is where they just threw a bunch of unwanted songs that had to fill out the album. Apparently they didn’t know that you can have three-sided double-record sets. Some of these are very good, like “Storm In My House” and “Little Man With a Gun In His Hand” and the covers; most of the others are pretty negligible. Still kind of fun, I guess.

If I were to edit the album I would trim it down to one disc, with the following track listing. These numbers refer to the original running order.

1-14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 31-35, 37, 39, 41-43

Time: 57:25

Longer records have been put onto one disc before. These tracks would comprise perhaps the single best punk album ever pressed, and the lesser cost of manufacturing one disc per album might induce the group to make more of them. Call it “Single Nickels” or something clever and people will eat it up. We should only be so lucky that the Minutemen are around in the first place to give us such a fine album to work with.

I submit a challenge thus to you, the readership: create your own tracklisting, with or without all the songs, that would turn Double Nickels on the Dime into the greatest single record of all time. Leave it in the comments and I’ll select a winner.

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Author: noopinionshere

What Julian Cope does for German experimental rock, Mike Watt does for Japanese underground bands, and Mark Prindle did for Amphetamine Reptile Records, I'll just do for whatever. (Pretty much all of it is stuff I like -- that's the only criterion.) I will listen to your demos too, so send me a link or a CD-R or a flash drive or something. In the meantime, read my shit. Thanks, A.P.

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