Monday, April 13, 2009

17 Greatest Albums: Minor Threat - 'Minor Threat EP/In My Eyes'

I am in high school. I have just become friends with Tom DeVincke via Justin Brady. I'd known of Tom as far back as junior high, mostly because he got a mohawk and rumor had it that he'd almost kicked out of school because of it.

That goes to show you just how much CONTROL was still being exerted over teenagers in 1983. If you cut your hair a certain way they threatened to DISCONTINUE your education.

Preppies. When I look back on this fad I get profoundly disturbed. Teens and pre-teens dressing as if they were figures from a 1950's sitcom. Now, I don't want my teenagers toting guns and shooting heroin but a little rebellion is rather important. At a time when they ought to have been questioning the line of mularkey their parents were giving them, these kids were emulating not even the parents themselves but some sick idealized version of a past their parents wished they had lived. Very creepy.

This was the atmosphere I was in when I met Tom. I remember us in a study hall laughing about some math homework and that was it. Best friends. He Justin and I then spent all of our free time loitering around town or in Tom's room listening to music.

This is where I first heard Minor Threat.

My musical upbringing consisted of show tunes and folk songs, with a little bit of The Beatles thrown in for good measure. I knew virtually no classic rock, none of the punk scene, nothing. I was a babe in the woods. Justin and Tom would continually rag on me when our band would try to cover some classic rock song. They'd play something, ask me what it was, and then roll on the floor when I had no clue. I couldn't tell Zeppelin apart from The Scorpions.

So I'd had no intermediate LOUDNESS in my music. Minor Threat sounded like a bomb going off.

I flipped out.

I went back recently and listened to their entire catalog and was pleasantly surprised at how good the songs are. How instantly catchy. How well-played. Compared to what passed for rock in those days, they sounded like a bunch of monkeys trying to turn Shakespeare into the Sex Pistols but it is almost poppy music. Crude, yes, sloppy? Not a bit.

Minor Threat had broken up by the time I ever heard them so I never got the chance to see them live. I wonder at how few people actually did see them live. It can't be over 10,000 in total. But if you listen to Ian MacKaye bark and growl those songs you hear the future of radio. The poser from Rage Against The Machine? Stole it from Ian. Nirvana's rasp? Cribbed. Linkin Park's almost rap? Minor Threat.

Much like the beginnings of what is today gangsta rap, Minor Threat started something that quickly snowballed into a whole new industry. At the time Minor Threat picked up their instruments the loudest thing you heard on the radio was Led Zeppelin. Maybe late at night you got The Ramones.

When I played Minor Threat for the uninitiated back in those days it was as if I were physically placing their heads inside of giant machinery. People have been trained differently now. They don't automatically dismiss something merely due to the volume at which it is played.

But they sure did back then.

And the guys who INVENTED this music were all teenagers. Minor threat, indeed.

Tom and Justin had guitars. I knew I could sing. Et voila. A band was born. Are Tom Justin and I friends today because we were in a band? I don't know but I sort of think so. In some way we will always be that band. Fecund Youth. And even though we never put out a record (officially!) never toured (farther than a house down the road without parents), we also never officially broke up, either.

Take your time
Try not to forget
We never will
We're just a minor threat
-Ian MacKaye 'Minor Threat'


Anonymous said...

Minor Threat was amazing.

Was that my house you guys played at? I remember you three playing in our basement once when our parents were away and Steve decided to invite our entire class year over for a party without telling me.

--- Tom H

Brendan O'Malley said...

That is right!!!! You were our road gig!!!