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The Minutemen's classic "Double Nickel's on the Dime" turns 30

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After 30 years "Double Nickels on the Dime" from The Minutemen is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of the 1980's. Recorded in 1984 the double album contains 45 tracks combining elements of punk rock, funk, spoken word and jazz, and references a variety of themes, from the Vietnam War and racism in America, to the working class experience and linguistics. Innovative does not even begin to convey what this album meant to many kids growing up around the Southern California areas of San Pedro and Long Beach. Not to mention the punk and rock world that was about to change thanks in part to the innovativeness of this album.
The Minutemen were formed by guitarist D. Boon and bassist Mike Watt in 1980. This album was the band's 3rd effort and most notable. Frank Tonche was the band's orignal drummer but shortly after SST signed the band George Hurley replaced Tonche and Minutemen history was about to be made.
D. Boon's guitar work suggested the adventurous melodic sense of jazz tempered with the bite and concision of punk rock, while Mike Watt's full-bodied bass was the perfect foil for Boon's leads and drummer George Hurley possessed a snap and swing that would be the envy of nearly any band.
In the course of the album's four sides, the band tackles leftist punk ("Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing"), Spanish guitar workouts ("Cohesion"), neo-Nortena polka ("Corona"), blues-based laments ("Jesus and Tequila"), avant-garde exercises ("Mr. Robot's Holy Orders"), and even a stripped-to-the-frame Van Halen cover ("Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"). In the documentary "We Jam Econo- The Story of The Minutemen" the album is referred by Watt to be their art record. The songwriting styles of Boon and Watt contrasted throughout most of the album. Boon tended to write the band's anthems, and often explored wider political issues. "This Ain't No Picnic", was an example of his approach. Exploring racism and the strife of the working class with both gravity and humor, he composed the song after his supervisor would not let him listen to jazz and soul music. Watt favored complex and abstract lyrical themes, exemplified by songs such as "The Glory Of Man" and "My Heart and the Real World". Influenced by James Joyce's novel "Ulysses" (the subject of "June 16th") and the stream of consciousness literary technique in general, Watt's lyrics were often complex and philosophical. On "Take 5, D.", Boon felt that the lyrics were "too spacey". Watt agreed to rewrite the song, adding: "There ain't nothing going to be more real." He found a new set of lyrics: a note from a friend's landlady about a shower.
The album also contained several inside jokes that were missed by the band's audience. Watt later remarked: "No one knew what we were talking about. We'd explain it to people and they'd say, 'I don't get it, what's so funny about that?' And we couldn't tell them because it was our whole angle on the rock & roll, our worldview on the music scene."
Depending on which version you have in your collection their are some different releases the following tracks were omitted from all CD releases: "Mr. Robot's Holy Orders", "Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love" and "Little Man With A Gun In His Hand". "Don't Look Now" and "Dr. Wu" were removed from 1987 release, but included in 1989 release. Three of the "car jams" were removed from 1989 release, but included in 1987 release. For a real collector the best version is the original LP if you can find it.
From start to finish, the Minutemen, play and sing with an estimable intelligence and unshakable conviction, and the album is full of striking moments that cohere into a truly remarkable whole; all three members write with smarts, good humor, and an eye for the adventurous, and they hit pay dirt with startling frequency. In the end, Double Nickels on the Dime was the finest album of the Minutemen's career, and one of the very best American rock albums of the 1980s.

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