MINUTEMEN Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)
Minutemen were a San Francisco hardcore trio extant between 1979 and 1986, whose name derived from the fact that their songs were mostly around a minute long. The double album "Double Nickels On The Dime" is widely regarded as their magnum opus, and in containing 45 tracks arguably has the time and space to spell out their philosophy more completely than their other albums. The conceptual continuity is furthered by the sleeve - which features photographs of the band in their cars - and the sounds of vehicles revving up and driving away that open and close each of the four sides (which themselves are named 'Side D.', 'Side Mike' and 'Side George' after the members of the band, and 'Side Chaff' after the band's description of the material that constituted the final face).
Musically Minutemen come across as a bizarre experiment involving Gang Of Four, Wire and Level 42. They play clipped, committed, abbreviated protest punk, slathered with elaborate funk basslines and drum fills. The sheer breadth of "Double Nickels On The Dime" makes it almost impossible to highlight individual tracks: reading the lyrics, or even contemplating the track titles whilst listening to the music, seems to be a fruitless exercise - far better to attempt to glean some understanding by letting the tidal wave of Minutemen-ness thunder over you. (Titles such as "Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing", "Do You Want New Wave (Or Do You Want The Truth)?" and "Untitled Song For Latin America" probably tell you as much about their leanings as you'd need to know). There are ports in the raging storm of obliqueness, however: almost by accident they occasionally stumble across a hummable melody and kick it about for a minute or two - for example "Jesus And Tequila", the sort of obscurity that you could imagine Kurt Cobain extolling the virtues of during Nirvana's heyday, or "Little Man With A Gun In His Hand". My favourites are the charming, self-explanatory "History Lesson (Part II)" and their hilarious deconstruction of Steely Dan's "Dr Wu".
"Double Nickels On The Dime" isn't for everybody - it's far too massive a statement of intent to absorb for all but the most determined - but the sheer momentum of the band's conviction might just keep you coming back to chip away at it from time to time, effort that might well be well spent.