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Minor Threat

 What Ian MacKaye needs is a good, stiff drink.

 

Introduction
Minor Threat (EP)
In My Eyes (EP)
Minor Threat
Out Of Step
Salad Days (EP)
Complete Discography

The Lineup Card (1980-1985)

Ian MacKaye (vocals, guitar)

Jeff Nelson (drums)

Brian Baker (bass, guitar)

Lyle Preslar (guitar)

Steve Hansen (bass) from 1982

I honestly don't know that much about hardcore, that LA-based early 80's punk rock movement based on playing everything a zillion times faster and heavier than anything coming out of New York or (gawd!) England, but I do know that Washington D.C.'s Minor Threat was one of the more interesting things to come out of the whole shebang. I mean, I've seen The Decline Of Western Civilization, and I have a few Black Flag and early Husker Du albums to know that the main thing here is to speed up Ramones riffs until you're playing so darned fast the song blurs into almost ambient distortion, and then scream on top of it. For such a rigid and undeveloped formula, it's also surprisingly robust, and like other formulaic music (country? rap anyone?) the songs rarely if ever suck if they're playing by the rules.

Anyway, what makes Ian MacKaye's Minor Threat so interesting is not their music, which is hard to differentiate from anyone else, but their philosophy. Any parent would be pretty happy to have their kid take on MacKaye as a role model, since his whole deal is no drinking, no drugs, no sex, no unnecessary violence...and also no religion (which is just fine by this parent), no romance (it makes you soft like religion does, so he says), no whining, and lots and lots of cursing. Sort of like Communist Russia, except for the violence part. He's pretty straightforward about all this too, it's in every Minor Threat lyric, and man, is he pissed about it. So if you want music to go and rail at the world with, and don't mind a little puritan zealotry, you could find much worse places to dig into hardcore than with this band.

I'm cheating here, and I'll explain why. See, Ian has his own record company, Dischord, and it's his own prerogative what gets released and what doesn't. And he, as the champion of the working man that he is (no sarcasm intended, really) released all 3 of the band's EPs and it's only album on one CD, thus making all of their music available in one place. I could've just reviewed Complete Discography, but instead I'm going to break it down into its component parts to better describe how the band evolved (and it did evolve, for the better) and so I'll have 6 albums on this page instead of just one. Dig it...it's really more for your money. Considering this is a free site and I only do it so's I don't kill myself.


Minor Threat EP -Dischord 1981

Eight songs, about 10 minutes, and really really powerful stuff. Simple as all get out, and the sped-up Ramones style still stands (they wouldn't change anything about that for a few years), but Mr. MacKaye spits out his lyrics like he's trying to tell you the barn is on fire and why don't you fucking DO SOMETHING about it already? I like 'Filler' especially well, it's about how one of his friends changed the minute he got religion (and/or romance...there's a verse about that too) and now his head is full of shit. 'Straight Edge' spells out his teetotalling ways to the fastest crappy on the album, and it cooks. No 'get a six pack in me...allright!' stuff here, no way. And 'Minor Threat' is a pretty neato little rallying song for the youth of the world to shave their heads and start thinking. Ian's all about thinking, he thinks it's the shit. And he's right, more or less. The rest is good, but its over before you can sneeze.

Capn's Final Word: Not a bad track here, but be warned that this is pure, uncut anger and speed. Ready to kill.

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In My Eyes EP - Dischord 1981

Only four songs, but they're already stretching out just the slightest little bit. 'In My Eyes' even has an intro part that's a completely different riff than the rest of the song, but the song unfortunately sounds like MacKaye and the rest of the band, not a band effort. He's eating it up, with all these different voices and a pretty great 'what the fuck have you done?' to drive his Lone Rebel Against The System point home. 'Out Of Step' and 'Guilty Of Being White' are more like stuff on the debut EP, just in case you thought they sold out, and have I mentioned how tight this dang band is? If you can find a sloppy passage here, I'll eat my CD-Rom drive and then you'll have to take me to the hospital.

I'm knocking off a shitload of points because I'm sure 'Guilty Of Being White' has been used by some neo-Nazis to justify doing something horribly dunderheaded, but the actual message is 'that stuff all happened 100 years ago...why do you hate me?' instead of 'I hate you because you won't get over what happened 100 years ago' and that's a big difference. But not so big as to make me think that the Minor Threat audience is as hep to subtlety as Ian MacKaye is. I think it's a little irresponsible, honestly. There's also a cover of the Monkee's 'Stepping Stone' which makes the Sex Pistols' version on Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle sound like Rod Stewart.

Capn's Final Word: Four more big ones. About 7 minutes long.

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Minor Threat - Dischord 1984

The first two EP's on one album that runs less than 20 minutes. Isn't this an EP too? These hardcore guys sure were efficient.

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Out Of Step - Dischord 1984

The only album ever released by this band is way short (only about 20 some-odd minutes, but I don't know exactly because one of the songs cuts off early on my mp3 set)(is it ironic that I essentially stole this album from Ian, who never charges more than a few bucks for a show, hasn't gotten rich in his career, and is a staunch supporter of pretty much everything I believe in? Probably, but even had I bought the CD, I would've bought it used. I'm a cheapskate. How else do you think I got all these records at age 25?) but it shows that the Threat is finally growing just a little more. For one thing, they treated themselves to two guitars this time around, since Baker went to second axe after Steve Hansen joined up, and the double guitar thing is a real plus for me. Also, the opening 'Betray', which has to be my favorite song by the band, we have this heavy metal interlude section that sounds like something ripped from an early Metallica rehearsal, and a chorus figure that actually requires real guitar skill to get going right. And it's almost 3 minutes long! Damn, had Ian just finished listening to Relayer or something? You could claim Minor Threat lost something on this album, but then you'd be branded as a fucking moron by me and the rest of the hardcore fans out there, so you sure you wanna do that? Ian hasn't lost any of his anger, either, and the lyrics are pretty much the same ol' song and distance, though he at least attempts to keep his preaching a little lower than he had previously. And that also means that he's gladly back in the middle of the mix again, throwing out his hilarious asides and yelps that make this record.

But man, the main thing here is the great crunchy riffs. 'Think Again' almost has a bit of groove to it, 'Look Back and Laugh' is memorable and tighter than a nun's arsehole (and it's also over 3 minutes...I fucking needed to piss but couldn't leave until the song ended and I almost died. Okay, not really, but I almost pissed all over my computer, which is almost worse than death), 'No Reason' has this really sick shuffle starting out, and a lead guitar part! Just like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd have! Oh my sweet Jesus up in heaven finding new ways to screw up my life through no fault of my own! And 'Little Friend' is just complicated as hell. For a hardcore song, which isn't really all that complicated in the grand scheme of things. About as complicated as introductory Algebra, how bout that?

And 'Cashing In' is probably my second favorite MT song...its this great joke song about how everything they say is a big joke and they're only in it to get your money. 'Damn...you had us pegged all along!'

Capn's Final Word: One great hardcore album...power, growth, originality, and a sense of humor. But it's still hardcore, so, you know, be careful and shit if you're a big wuss.

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Salad Days EP - Dischord 1985

Three more songs, again real short, and you may not even recognize this as Minor Threat unless your idea of this band includes bells and acoustic guitars (like on the title track, which still blasts) and tempos you might be able to tap your feet to. But man, these three songs are frigging ace. 'Stumped' is my favorite, though my song is cut in half (FUCK!!!), but the cover 'Good Guy Don't Wear White' (which is by who...Wire?) is pretty funny too. Another score for the band, and a good point of transition to Ian's next band, Fugazi. Man, this is cool, but it almost sounds like college rock in places. Oh how weird this world is!

Capn's Final Word: More good stuff, and not even really hardcore anymore. But it's like 7 minutes long!

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megan treak     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: great!!! totally in the clouds


 

Complete Discography - Dischord 1988

Everything previously mentioned is here, plus what I assume is a single '12XU' and 'Stand Up', which were released not long before Out Of Step, with the twin guitar lineup which ruled. Those two songs are over in a heartbeat, but I challenge anyone to find a boring moment on this album. I think you probably need this record, 55 minutes of hardcore greatness. If you have any curiosity about faster/louder punk rock, go for this record first.

Capn's Final Word:  I wish all hardcore bands had been this great.

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Neal Grosvenor      Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This has got to be the best hardcore band from the 80s hands down!!!! neagr@xchg.medisys.ca

Dan W     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This album fucking rules, especially after the part where brian baker switched to second guitar and they started doing that really crunchy guitar playing like their earlier stuff, but added that second guitar that played choppy guitar riffs (i like to compare it to early clash stuff), that's a real fucking winning formula, i dont necessarily agree with everything Ian says (...straight edge....), although all his opinions are very well founded and intelligent, but i can definately respect them, point is, this album fucking rules, great shit, if you dont own it, i highly recommend you get your ass down to a record store and buy it

Natasha     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: All of the best stuff in one place. What a deal.

 

Guy  guy@guypetersreviews.com   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Hi, kick arse review of a great band's output. Just wanted to point out (nitpicker that i am) that the song "Good Guys Don't Wear White" is a song by The Standells.

Harry     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: This Cd is an awesome hardcore Cd, even though he was straight edge, not saying that that is bad, but there was a lot of hardcore
music coming out at the same time.  Black Flag, Bad Brains, F-Minus, etc. etc.  They were usually hopped on stuff screaming their brains out.  Ian was just a very pissed off man. In conclusion awesome Cd I enjoy minor threat.


Adam     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?:   Hardcore punk is a form of music that is incredibly formulative: Fast, loud, distorted guitars, blurred drumbeats, and shouted lyrics. Minor Threat (for the most part) follow this formula flawlessly. However, they stand heads above most other hardcore bands and are starkly different. MT's contribution to hardcore is the introduction of radical and thought-provoking ideas to the punk rock. They shunned drugs and violence, elements that tore the punk scene apart from LA to London, and promoted individualism. The Complete Discography is a wonderful collection displays Ian MacKaye's intelligent ideas and Minor Threat's catchy, precise music.

Mike     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Great album, shows how hard Minor Threat was. Even though they inspired college "anarchist" sophomores (poseurs) to dogmatically lecture other people about the evils of getting wasted (if it sounds far-fetched, believe me, I've seen it happen...punks and Christians aren't so far from each other after all...lol), these tunes, well, tear from beginning to end. Ian MacKaye is a very charismatic singer, but for me Lyle Preslar's chainsaw guitar owns these songs.

Two corrections: To my knowledge, Ian didn't play guitar on any Minor Threat recordings, only really starting that around the time of Embrace, and of course, with Fugazi. Also, Steve Hansgen (that's how you spell it) left after, I think, 1984, since Brian Baker wanted to move back to bass again.

Also..."Salad Days" is amazing, "Straight Edge" explodes and is over in about the time it takes to shoot a pump-action shotgun twice (I pulled that out of my ass, but it seemed good at the time), and "Good Guys Don't Wear White" is a Standells cover. You know, the guys on "Nuggets" who did "Dirty Water."


George Bush     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: To me, this little record is a work of perfection. Every song rips and tears and literally kicks my ass. Now, to be honest, there's not much here in the way of musical virtuosity and melody. The melody is there, I mean, but it's not very refined. The whole sound of the album is what does it for me. It's angry, frustrated, loud...perfect. Of course, there are tons of great hooks. I guess you would probably have to be an angry and frustrated person to enjoy this album. Considering that I'm a liberal and I live in America, angry and frustrated would describe me pretty well, which would also explain why I like this album so much.

Fuckin Republican fascist corporate swine douchebags.


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