A Minor Treat

So I was twelve years old, pretty impressionable and trying to be all punk rock, and I went to try and buy some punk CDs one day at Newbury Comics in Harvard Square. As I was carrying a copy of Daisy Chainsaw's "Eleventeen" to the counter, the bully of the seventh grade at my school stepped out from behind a rack, grabbed my choice away from me, sneered derisvely and hissed, "this isn't punk." And he proceeded to repatriate the offending disc and force a copy of Minor Threat's "Complete Discography" into my hands.

Needless to say, I wasn't about to argue with the kid, and I meekly took the new CD up to the cash register and bought it, cursing the assholes I went to school with and my own lack of spine under my breath. But I decided to give it a spin when I got home (I had paid for it after all), and... and... and...

And 12 years later it probably qualifies as my favorite record of all time, by virtue of length of relationship if nothing else. I've bought it three times, lost it twice, found it once and given the recovered copy to a friend - it's an album I truly don't think I could live without, and I've been listening to it again on the train, and...

It just kicks ass. At a time when Hardcore was developing, and developing into one of the stupidest musical boutique cultures in western history at that, with nerdy white assholes in Southern California getting hammered and kicking the shit out of people and nerdy white assholes along the East Coast kicking the shit out of people for getting hammered, Minor Threat and a select few other nerdy white assholes actually made music. Sure, it was fast and loud - but that wasn't its only drawing point. It was about being a kid, and it was written by kids, but kids who had perspective. It has remained interesting and relevant to me for twelve years - since before I had pubes, to now as I start to go bald. And that's pretty cool.

The lyrics: my favorite is at the end of "Betray," and I don't think I really realized what Ian was singing until the other day (amazing how you can listen to something literally five hundred times and never hear words). He sings "Goddammit, we were supposed to stay young." I like that - because I feel that way a lot of the time, and maybe it's stupid and childish of me, and it's hardly an earth-shattering revelation, but so much music (and especially hardcore) is about fucking or fighting or showing off, or making sure not to do any of same, or politics - and that lyric is personal. "We were supposed to stay young. Now it's over, finished and done." And the dude wasn't even 22 when he wrote it.

Plus, that same song has a groovy funk riff that I like quite a bit, also a rarity in white-white-white HC music. Towards the end of their career (and hey, the whole damn thing's on one disc) MT started doing what other bonehead bands couldn't - they got softer, and slower, and more intense because of that. They started to make sounds that didn't all blend into one furious whirl of testosterone, sometimes jarring, often disturbing, but a hell of a lot more musically interesting than, say, Adrenalin O.D..

They also, as far as I can see, and I may well get lots of argument on this one, invented the stop/start rock'n'roll thing widely attributed to the Pixies - who, to be fair, did use it brilliantly. But Minor Threat did it in 1981, and I can't find anybody who really did before that, so I'm gonna say they invented the jumpy punk stop/start. And wait to be told otherwise. But in any case, they had the chops to play it, which was no small achievement at that time and place.

All that written, I still don't think I've really captured anything about them, and my love for Minor Threat is so deeply personal that I don't know if I even could. But if you feel like listening to some loud music, do yourself a favor and check it out. It is one of my favoritest albums of all time, and well deserving of a gushing if inarticulate love letter.

Oh, and Daisy Chainsaw really did suck.


Blogger Phil said...

I think that it's interesting to look at the entire arc of Ian's career - from the adorably sloppy Teen Idles, to the sharper Minor Threat, to Fugazi - I know I'm skipping some - with an aesthetic arc all their own (my pal Pete and I used to call it the dialectic of Hard and Art), and now to the Evens.

Throughout the course of his...ouvre...you hear the sound of "punk" expanding, encompassing more and more sounds. And part of that is, like you said, the sincerety of his work.

I think that's illustrated at some point during Instrument when he says that Fugazi's lyrics aren't usually explicitly political because Fugazi's politics were evident from their actions (benefit concerts, independent production, etc.), so they didn't need to sing about them. That's probably part of what allows them/him to continue being subversive, rather than "subversive" (read: hack).

12:00 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger d said...

wow. the bullies at my school were useless compared to couriers of taste at yours. & I thought I had a relatively posh middle school experience!

12:38 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger Phil said...

Little Billy: *sob* *sob* Mom!! *sob*
Mother: What it is Billy, what happened!?
Little Billy: Johnny foisted his aesthetic on my in the hallway at school today!

1:25 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger d said...

that should be a comic strip if it isn't one already.

1:34 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger george said...

Yo. Minor Threat's "Stepping Stone" could be the best song to skateboard to ever. Years of personal teenage research have proven this again and again.

3:15 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger d said...

I don't know minor threat at all. which would be the best place to start?

4:37 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger d said...

aside from jared's anthology, I mean?

4:51 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger mary said...

good question - I just realized the only MT I have right now is the first demo tape (12 songs, 17 minutes). why don't I have the complete discography? jared, can I borrow yours if I give you something very valuable to hold as collateral while I cram it in my itunes?

5:23 PM, May 05, 2005  

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