Skip navigation

The Minutemen’s Post-Mersh is a valuable series, collecting all of the group’s official discography, with the exception of Double Nickels on the Dime, 3-Way Tie for Last, and Ballot Result, over the course of three discs. Post-Mersh, Vol. 1 starts at the beginning, combining the trio’s first two albums, The Punch Line (1981) and What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1983) on one disc.

The Minutemen may have come out of the same California hardcore scene that produced Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Fear, but they not only bore little resemblance to their West Coast contemporaries, they didn’t sound much like anyone else in American rock at that time. The Punch Line was the band’s first album, packing 18 tunes into less than 25 minutes, and if the music shares hardcore’s lust for speed and assaultive rhythmic punch, their sharp, fragmented melodies, complex tempos, and overtly poetic and political lyrics made clear they were rugged individuals; imagine James Blood Ulmer teaching Wire how to get funky and you start to get an idea of what The Punch Line sounds like. It wasn’t until the band began to slow down a bit on What Makes a Man Start Fires? that the strength of the group’s individual songs became clear, and The Punch Line works better as a unified sonic assault than as a collection of tunes, but moments do stand out, especially “Tension,” “Fanatics,” and the title cut, which certainly lends a new perspective to Native American history. The Punch Line was as wildly inventive as anything spawned by American punk, and the band would only get better on subsequent releases.

But on their second (relatively) long-player, What Makes a Man Start Fires?, the three dudes from Pedro opted to slow down their tempos a bit, and something remarkable happened — the Minutemen revealed that they were writing really great songs, with a remarkable degree of stylistic diversity. If you were looking for three-chord blast, the Minutemen were still capable of delivering, as the opening cut proved (the hyper-anthemic “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs”), but there was just as much churning, minimalistic funk as punk bile in their sound (bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley were already a strikingly powerful and imaginative rhythm section), and D. Boon’s guitar solos were the work of a man who could say a lot musically in a very short space of time. Leaping with confidence and agility between loud rants (“Split Red”), troubled meditations (“Plight”), and plainspoken addresses on the state of the world (“Mutiny in Jonestown”), the Minutemen were showing a maturity of vision that far outstripped most of their contemporaries and a musical intelligence that blended a startling sophistication with a street kid’s passion for fast-and-loud. It says a lot about the Minutemen’s growth that The Punch Line sounded like a great punk album, but a year later What Makes a Man Start Fires? sounded like a great album — period.

-Mark Deming, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
Minutemen-POST-MERSH, VOL. 1 (1987 compilation)
v0

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: