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Minutemen

Biography

They were from the moon, or maybe it was just Pedro, as singer d. boon used to sneer. Whatever the case, San Pedro natives d. boon, bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley were ordinary guys -- so ordinary they shouldn't have gone anywhere, and certainly shouldn't have ended up cutting some of the most idiosyncratic albums of the 1980s LA punk scene. But perhaps that was what made the band -- and the scene -- so great. At that time, almost anything went -- even a band with a pudgy lead singer, a bassist who looked like a dock worker and a drummer who fell somewhere between pretty boy and bruiser. They sang about everything missing from the radio in those days -- and even from a lot of punk rock -- attacking American misadventures in Southeast Asia, evenhandedly explaining the life of a working man, and even touching on existential philosophy. They did all this in songs that often clocked in under two minutes and featured insanely clean, jazzy drum fills and the kind of tense literacy that comes from working class stiffs who had to work for it. Watt and boon first met in high school, when they discovered a shared love for music and politics. They spent years plugging away at '70s rock hit covers in d. boon's house -- with his open-minded mother's approval and encouragement -- until they finally found the courage to write their own songs after they discovered the burgeoning punk scene and its DIY aesthetic in 1976. They were called the Reactionaries in their first 1980 incarnation, but the band morphed quickly into the three-person outfit the Minutemen (so named for their short songs) and found its ideal configuration when George Hurley replaced former drummer Frank Tonche. The new lineup began releasing a stream of albums and EPs starting in 1981, and toured relentlessly. Their talent reached its pinnacle in 1984's Double Nickels On The Dime, a sprawling 43-song release, inspired by Husker Du's double album Zen Arcade, that was the culmination of their bizarrely timeless jazz-punk-rock aesthetic. Everything influenced that album, even funk, and you can hear it in d. boon's crisp, sparkling guitar and Watt's savage treatment of his bass -- not to mention the smart, angry, ironic lyricism which could disguise the group's earnest love of all kinds of music. And while no one would ever argue that d. boon was an ideal lead singer, his plainspoken and often muscular style fit the group perfectly. Double Nickels infiltrated the U.S.'s underground music scene, and the group continued its steady clip of touring and releases until tragedy struck in 1985, when d. boon and his girlfriend were involved in a fatal car accident. He was dead, at just 27 years old. Watt was -- and still is, in some ways -- devastated, and the band understandably dissolved. Watts and Hurley did go on to form fIREHOSE, which, while respected, never gained the same cult following that the Minutemen enjoy to this day.
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