Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Double Nickels on the Dime, the third studio album from the American punk trio Minutemen. The California band consisted of D. Boon (vocals and guitar), Mike Watt (bass and vocals), and George Hurley (drums and vocals). Additional musicians on the record included Joe Baiza (guitar), John Rocknowski (guitar) and Dirk Vandenberg (guitar).

Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 411 on its list of the 500 Greatest Rock Albums of All-Time. Slant Magazine ranked it number 77 on its list of the Best Albums of the 1980’s.

The double-album had sides named for each of the guys in the band, with the fourth side marked as “Chaff”. There are a total of forty-five tracks total, ranging from forty seconds to three minutes long (most are under two minutes).

Side one (“side D.”) includes the funk grooves “Anxious Mo-Fo”, “Theatre Is the Life of You” and “Viet Nam”, the gentle acoustic instrumental “Cohesion”, the funk-punk “It’s Expected I’m Gone”, the sarcastic “#1 Hit Song”, “Two Beads at the End”, the melodic debate “Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?”, a live cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Don’t Look Now”, the edgier “Shit from an Old Notebook”, “Nature Without Man” and “One Reporter’s Opinion”.

Side two (“side Mike”) features “Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing” (the one track from the album I had on a compilation set from Rhino Records), “Maybe Partying Will Help”, “Toadies”, “Retreat”, the jazzy “The Big Foist”, “God Bows to Math”, “Corona” which was later adopted for the theme of MTV‘s Jackass, “The Glory of Man” (the longest track at nearly three minutes in length), the country-tinged “Take 5, D.”, the Ska flavored “My Heart and the Real World” and the autobiographical “History Lesson - Part II”.

Side three (“side George”) contains the percussion driven “You Need the Glory”, “The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts”, “Mr. Robot’s Holy Orders”, the topical (at the time) “West Germany”, the rapid rap of “The Politics of Time”, the folksy swing of “Themselves”, “Please Don’t Be Gentle With Me”, “Nothing Indeed”, “No Exchange”, the smooth groove of “There Ain’t Shit on TV Tonight”, “This Ain’t No Picnic” (whose video ran on MTV) and “Spillage”.

Side four (“side Chaff”) rounds things out with “Untitled Song for Latin America”, the foot-tapping and plodding “Jesus and Tequila” (which reminds me of the Doors), the instrumental “June 16th” (inspired by James Joyce’s Ulysses), “Storm in My House”, “Martin’s Story”, a forty second riff from Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love”, an abbreviated cover of Steely Dan’s “Dr. Wu”, “Little Man With a Gun in His Hand”, “The World According to Nouns” and “Love Dance”.

The version up on Spotify appears to be the 1989 CD release which omits three of the tracks and adds in two “car jams“.

This was my first extended exposure to Minutemen and Double Nickels on the Dime. I really thought these tracks were very well done. But just as you are starting to get into them they end abruptly. Some would say thus is the nature of punk. In my humble opinion, many of these songs easily could have been expanded to twice their lengths and still worked. But then, the band would have had plenty of material for multiple albums.

This is one of those records where a couple tracks is all you need at a time, a sort of a boost. A little bit goes a long way. They would be perfect for filling in that extra bit on a side of a mix tape.

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