Monday, April 12, 2004

#15) Minor Threat - The Complete Minor Threat (released in 1988, I got a used CD of this near the very end of college - or right after)

I've met a lot of people who were originally into hardcore and metal who gradually moved towards calmer indie tastes, but I did the exact opposite. What little Minor Threat I heard in high school struck me as generic and tuneless. Where Fugazi made immediate sense to me, this stuff took a lot longer for me to appreciate. Today, while Ian MacKaye's entire career is exemplary (I'm dying to hear his new band, the Evens), this CD feels like his finest achievement: a coherent, genuine testimonial that provides cathartic, musical force without indulging in the theatrics of domination, expressing political and personal disgust while admitting a vulnerability that explains and justifies the fervor of his indignation. You can hear the band's growing ambition and skill as the album progresses - the bells and swells of "Salad Days" have the flamboyancy of Queen compared to "Filler" - as well as the gradual subject shift from outside enemies to the dissolution of the very world he was defending. To paraphrase Chuck Eddy in Stairway To Hell, musically these guys never took the shortest distance between two points.

Some find Minor Threat overly pious, but I think a lot of that stems from people's defensiveness about their own activities. Though I drink, I appreciate songs like "Bottled Violence" and "In My Eyes," which demand nothing more than personal accountability and the right to self-expression. The last verse of "Think Again" is a must-hear for any paid or unpaid critic, and while I drink, smoke pot (if somebody else is buying) and might well indulge in casual sex if it was ever offered to me (a moral dilemma I've yet to have to face), I do NOT play golf... which is why I feel OUT! OF! STEP! WITH THE WUURRROLLLD! Anybody who hears "Cashing In" should know better than to call the band humorless and "Salad Days" may be one of the most heartbreaking dismissals of nostalgia in existence. Their influence is astounding (they invented the phrase "straight edge"), and even if they bit off more than they could chew, at least they fucking tried. What the fuck have YOU done?

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