Monday, March 17, 2008
No. 411: Double Nickels on the Dime
Band: The Minutemen
Album: Double Nickels on the Dime
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: You'll find few records as smart as "Double Nickels on the Dime" while still being unabashedly punk rock. Between "Anxious Mo-Fo" and "Love Dance," the record spans straight rock and roll to a John Fogerty cover to some songs co-written by punk rock friends like Henry Rollins.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: As all double albums, "Double Nickels" is too long. Too much filler.
Best song: "Corona," "The Roar of the Masses Could be Farts," "Toadies," "Ain't Talking About Love" and "Untitled Song for Latin America" are all great. "Corona," for the uninitiated, is the "Jackass" theme song and "Ain't Talking About Love" is 40-second cover a Van Halen classic.
Worst song: "Shit From an Old Notebook" is basically gutter punk politics.
Is it awesome?: Yes. A classic.
Rolling Stone quotes "Our band could be your life" -- the now famous line in "History Lesson -- Part 2" -- on their page about this record on the 500 albums list. You won't hear me agreeing with the magazine much, but that line has become emblematic of the hardcore movement.
Like the grunge trend that followed, the hardcore scene was populist in its heroes. The Minutemen didn't look like rock stars and, more importantly, didn't act like rock stars. The band's mantra of "We jam econo" became a symbol of the DIY feelings among the punk rock of the time.
Oddly enough, punk rock historian Steven Blush has called the album "either the pinnacle or downfall of the pure hardcore scene" because of its sonic distance from much of the hardcore at the time. Unlike the Black Flag, Hüsker Dü and TSOL records of the time, "Double Nickels on the Dime" finds the band bringing jazz rhythms and more laid-back arrangements, at times. The band's lower-class San Pedro upbringing peppers the album, as class-based political songs make for some interesting, though muddled, messages. Songs like "Maybe Partying Will Help," "This Ain't No Picnic," "The Politics of Time" and others were ways of Mike Watt and company to speak out.
It's an epic record -- 43 songs over two discs -- and has been widely acclaimed from the second SST took it off the presses. It's the point in which hardcore punk rock finally matured out of the adolescent ramblings of the late 1970s. Sadly, the genre reverted mostly to that style, leaving the Minutemen as one of the most unique bands ever and "Double Nickels on the Dime" as the one of the best records as well.