California fusion-punk trio Minutemen’s double album Double Nickels on the Dime personified the mid-1980s boom of eccentric punk that set the groundwork for indie and alternative rock.
Minutemen’s ninety-second blasts shoehorn in searing funk and skronking jazz. D. Boon bellows over his razor-sharp guitar, Mike Watt’s slap bass lopes along, and George Hurley’s skittering drums tape it all together and roll it down the hill.
At first, Minutemen and the forty-five-song Double Nickels are impenetrable, like the idiom of three guys who have been stuck in an elevator for a year. But, after a listener immerses themselves in Minutemen’s music, they are rewarded with a unique perspective.
Professor and music writer Michael T. Fournier cracks this Rosetta Stone, providing song-by-song details from the surviving Minutemen Watt and Hurley, their contemporaries, and Fournier’s fellow fans.
Fournier’s book is most helpful as a reference. Going cover-to-cover, a reader is quickly lost unless they are already familiar with each song. It makes more sense to flip to the entry on a favorite track for more information.
The typical entry is five hundred words, beginning with a description of the music—a necessity on an album that blusters from funk to punk to tape noise to bastardized classic rock to meditative fingerpicking. Then there’s discussion of the lyrics, often with quotes from Watt about the song’s inside references, followed by some information on recording and instrumentation.
Fournier’s book adds accessibility to a daunting chunk of music. It is a great help for the casual listener who wants a deeper understanding of this mysterious record and also acts as a useful companion for the established fan who wants to see one of the most important albums of the ‘80s in a new light. –CT Terry (Continuum’s 33 1/3 series)