Thursday, November 16, 2006

we jam econo

consider this the unintended third and last in a series of recent documentaries on the mid-1980s independent music scene that i've screened in the past few weeks. we jam econo: the story of the minutemen (d. boon, mike watt and george hurley, pictured left to right) is not nearly as compelling as the devil and daniel johnston if only by virtue of the fact that it lacks comparable archival material and the tragedy of its tale is of a different order; and yet it is far more satisfying than american hardcore, perhaps because it both is and transcends that genre distinction with all of its foibles and trappings. (in fact it's highly instructive to view american hardcore in tandem with we jam econo: not only is a similar cast of expert authorities paraded before us, but even the rag-tag tin-shack orange county youth centers where early hardcore shows were staged look similar.)

against the backdrop of hostility towards the working classes felt throughout this country in the 1980s (and today) but with a particular acuity in the right-wing enclaves of orange country, the minutemen combined funk and jazz rhythms and atonalities with the explosive aggression hardcore punk to create a truly unique and undeniably american music. and just as the band really began maturing and moving into territory that conceivably could have gotten them a wider audience, guitarist-singer-songwriter d. boon was killed in an automobile accident. it was xmas break of my freshman year in college and the news of it really felt like a kick in the stomach. here was a guy whose intelligence, energy and committment were, like the man himself, sizeable. and vitally necessary: his lyrics could just as easily turn on a dime from zen koans of political and ethical insight to brute rage at the stupidity and injustices of american life. if anything he's now more necessary than ever.
a hundred thousand years ago before legends were ever told
homo sapiens stood erect, mind empty and mind fresh.
created love and hate. created god and anti-god.
human slaughtered
human slaughtered
human slaughtered
first with stone, then with metal, now with heat.
it was all for power.

-- "History Lesson," from The Punch Line (1981)

i'm making my case against a stack full of comics
here comes the line . . .
i'm loaded w rocket fuel
exclamation in quotation
industry industry
we're tools for the industry
yr clothes in their laundry
bleached of identity
you lie there naked
I lie here naked
both on the pavement
why are we different?

--"Fake Contest," from What Makes A Man Start Fires? (1983)

list monitors arrive with petition
iron-fisted philosophy
is your life worth a painting?
is this girl vs. boy with different symbols?
being born is power scout leader nazi
tagged as big sin
your risk chains me hostage
me i'm fighting with my head, am not ambiguous
i must look like a dork

me naked with textbook poems
spout fountain against the nazis
with weird kinds of sex symbols
in speeches that are big dance thumps
if we heard mortar shells
we'd cuss more in our songs
and cut down the guitar solos
[guitar solo]

so dig this big crux
organizing the boy scouts for murder is wrong
ten years beyond the big sweat point
man, it was still there, ever without you
coming back around, look! coming together,
for just a second, a peek
a guess at the wholeness that's way too big

--"Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing," from Double Nickles On The Dime (1984)

A word war
will set off the keg
My words of war
Should a word have two meanings?
What the fuck for?
Should words serve the truth?

I stand for language
I speak for truth
I shout for history
I am the cesspool
For all the shit
to run down in

--"Do You Want New Wave (or Do You Want the Truth)?," from Double Nickles On The Dime (1984)

1 comment:

Mark Wallace said...

The Minutemen rock! Sometimes it just comes down to that.