10 Best Minutemen Songs
In the landscape of ’80s American underground music, the Minutemen were nothing short of anomalies. Too rugged and proud of their working class backgrounds to mesh with the sophisticated New Wave crowd yet too brainy for the hardcore scene, they ended up carving out their own niche with the other oddballs that made up the roster of SST Records, then home to the pioneering likes of Husker Du, the Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth. Sadly, the Minutemen’s musical trailblazing ended when guitarist/vocalist D. Boon was killed in a car accident in the deserts of Arizona on December 22, 1985. It’s something of a daunting task to choose the greatest tracks from a band with hundreds in their catalog, but these are our picks for the 10 Best Minutemen Songs.
‘The Price of Paradise’
If these three dudes from San Pedro, Calif., knew anything, it was how to open an album. Pretty much every full-length they did had a breathtaking track kicking it off, and this powerful anti-war statement from their final LP is no exception. D. Boon minces no words on his feelings about the pointlessness of dividing and conquering in this powerful yet fluid track.
Another scorching opening track, this time from ‘The Punch Line,’ the bands’ first long-player, released in 1981. The song showcases what the Minutemen had over many English bands at the time who were playing a similar hybrid of punk and funk: a sense of humility and an unabashed will to rock.
‘King of the Hill’
No. 8 on our list of the 10 Best Minutemen Songs comes from 1985’s ‘Project: Mersh,’ something of a concept. The band decided it would be their “sell-out” record, complete with brass instruments, fade-outs and other studio trickery. Of course, the record did not break them into the mainstream, but it did present them as a band with no time for the barriers being put upon them by the punk watch guards of the time. Penned by Boone, ‘King of the Hill’ is a fiery sociopolitical commentary with a thundering chorus.
‘Party With Me Punker’
Next up is ‘Party With Me Punker,’ a quick, bright burst of fun written exclusively for a 40-band compilation album released in 1983 by the infamous California punk ‘zine We Got Power. It was later covered by the female alt-rock supergroup Free Kitten.
By 1983, the Minutemen had become known on the underground scene for their ability to filter all of their energy into 40-second bursts of passionate precision. When they decided to stretch out to the two-minute mark with a track like ‘Cut,’ off the 12-inch EP ‘Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat,’ it was seen as the equivalent of a side-long Progressive Rock suite. Especially for the first 30 seconds of the track, where Watt, Boon and drummer George Hurley lock in and sound like a brimstone-fueled version of the Grateful Dead. For its duration, the track holds a focused, stuttering groove that’s straight-up hypnotizing.
‘Joe McCarthy’s Ghost’
When the Minutemen released their debut 7-inch EP, ‘Paranoid Time,’ in December 1980, it had a lot of people raising their eyebrows and scratching their heads. The short bursts of sounds they made had some linking them to the burgeoning American hardcore movement, but the lengths of their songs was where that comparison died. All seven songs that make up the six-minute record are brimming with funky bass lines, a working persons’ political agenda and a desire not to be pigeonholed. ‘Joe McCarthys’ Ghost’ is a perfect example.
‘Little Man With the Gun In His Hand’
No. 4 on our list of the 10 Best Minutemen Songs is yet another ‘Buzz or Howl’ track that foreshadowed the growth that was to come. ‘Little Man With the Gun In His Hand’ ducks and weaves with an incredible intensity, and it stands as one of D. Boon’s most hair-raising vocal deliveries.
‘Political Song for Michael Jackson To Sing’
‘Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing’ is the quintessential Minutemen song. It features a great, chugging groove, an amazing solo by Boon and lyrics by Watt that prove him to be a genius who can express a world’s worth of ideas in a handful of words. The two best line: “Is your life worth a painting?” and “Being born is power!”
‘History Lesson – Part II’
Who but the Minutemen could sum up their entire history in a little more than two minutes? Here, they cite everyone from Blue Oyster Cult and Bob Dylan to Richard Hell and John Doe as inspirations. Simple and solemn, it’s one of the most heartwarming tunes in the band’s cannon.
‘This Ain’t No Picnic’
Topping our list of the 10 Best Minutemen Songs is one of their most noted tunes, ‘This Ain’t No Picnic.’ Not only is it a full-on monster, but it’s the definitive anthem for the type of people the Minutemen were trying to represent: working folks with half a brain and a will to live.