By Jimmy Ether
It’s difficult for me to fully express the effect that the Minutemen had on me. “Life changing” may seem over-dramatic, but it would not be inaccurate. They were the ultimate underground band. A perfect blend of outrage, respect, art, sweat, and brotherly love. They never fit the hardcore genre into which they have been historically placed. They were not about aggression, rebellion, and noise. They were blatant self-expression and open-mindedness. They projected a very conceptualized vision of what a free, musical lifestyle meant. . . zen and the art of “the spiel.” They dabbled in self-mythology while remaining entirely modest everymen from blue-collar San Pedro, California.
Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat marked a change in direction for the band. It was far more progressive and angular than their previous records and foreshadows their later masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime. George Hurley’s drumming had become incredibly finessed, seeming to attribute itself more to bebop than punk. The album gives us Mike Watt’s first truly brilliant vocal track, “Cut,” a great example of their ability to poetically glorify the mundane. “Hey, ice machine. Well, you cut me. Thin line. CUT!” Watt’s bass-lines are drastically more hook-laden and purposeful than before. And by this point, D. Boon’s guitar style has fully formed into an unmistakable frantic bite of treble in counterpoint debate with the warmly distorted melodic bass. Boon’s lyrics have become more impressionistic—terse bits of imagery which give you a snapshot sense of the scene—letting you draw your own conclusions. This is especially apparent on the final track “Little Man With a Gun in His Hand” where you can never really be sure of the situation and only get a hint of the events leading to it. Yet, somehow the photograph produced is captivating and clear in black and white.
So, how do you end a review of a Minutemen record? The same way Mike Watt ends this release. . . “Big blow-jobs! Was that good enough?”
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