Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review #41: Minutemen - Paranoid Time (EP) (1980)


Year: 1980
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: Hardcore
Label: SST Records
Tracks: 7
Length: 6 Minutes (Very Short)
Style: Political
My Rating: 6/8

The Minutemen were a Californian punk rock band that existed during the early to mid 1980s. Founding members D. Boon and Mike Watt became friends at the age of 13 in 1971, and the two formed their first band, "The Bright Orange Band" in 1973. In 1976 they discovered punk rock and formed the bands "Starstruck" and "The Reactionaries" throughout the rest of the decade. In 1980, the two formed their band "the Minutemen", whose name was a slam at a 1960s conservative group of the same name.

They quickly signed to SST Records, releasing the second SST record ever, a 7" E.P. called "Paranoid Time". This was their first record. The general theme seems to be the paranoia and fear surrounding most of America due to the perceived risk of the Cold War, which was still ongoing during that time.

1. Validation
Mike Watt sings this one. Starts pretty quickly. Vocals more yelled than sung. A lot of pauses in the beat. Ends with a short rhythm-guitar solo and a single beat of the drum. This song is really short.

2. The Maze
A fast beat like the previous song. Pretty neat bass-line. The lyrics are about the incompetence and lies of the government. This song ends extremely abruptly right in the middle of the song. It literally just fades out in the middle of the second verse.

3. Definitions
Starts with some spoken vocals and Mike Watt playing the bass guitar. After nearly a minute, the song picks up the speed and the beat and the guitar start playing along for a few seconds, until it all erupts into a wreck of noise. I don't know the lyrics, but there's a lot of references to the Dictionary.

4. Sickles and Hammers
This is an instrumental song. My personal favorite track on the album. It just sounds cool. And it has the same tempo as the previous three songs. Really cool bass-line. End of Side 1.

5. Fascist
Another fast song. The song makes further discussion of oppression of the Working Class by the government and criticism of the Capitalist system, the main theme of the record. Sounds pretty similar to "Sickles and Hammers".

6. Joe McCarthy's Ghost
The slowest song on the album (but not actually a slow song). This one is very bass-driven. It's a song slamming the modern Joe McCarthys of the world, proclaiming, "I'm not gonna fight, when they call out my number". The song ends with the group repeating "Joe McCarthy" again and again.

7. Paranoid Chant
Starts with the fast beat, jangly guitar, and strong bassline. D. Boon portrays a paranoid man in the Cold War who can hardly work and worry about real problems because he's so scared to death of Russia and a possible Third World War. Ends with the whole group yelling and screaming in supposed paranoia.

Like many hardcore records, this one's driving topic is the devastation and fear that the Cold War and Ronald Reagan were creating in America. However, this one offers a more working-class perspective, citing the unfairness to their class that is a common result of Capitalism. Musically, it's a very bass-driven record; the rhythm guitar is nice, but Mike Watt's bass guitar really makes the melody. The EP's music is already considerably more experimental than most hardcore in 1980. The Minutemen went on to become one of the very first "alternative" rock bands, and they gained a lot of respect among other alternative rock bands of their day, such as Sonic Youth. Still, this is a pretty good start, already. And it's only six minutes long.

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