Minor Threat (1989)
I bet by 1985, people thought punk couldn’t get any more, well, punk. It was underground, newly independent with local labels, and unrestricted by social taboos. How naïve they were. Along came the badasses of Minor Threat to blow away the conceptions of what music could be for perhaps the last time in modern history.
They cranked everything up to unheard-of levels, with structure, playing, intensity and tempos that seemed unfeasible but was actually just a new genre: hardcore. Its inspiration was one of the band’s early covers, Wire’s “12XU”, which takes the already speedy song and throttles it to the edge of parody. Though they all sound like a blur of screaming and din, when taken apart, these 90-second blips are full-fledged songs.
The band also represented a new ideology, straight edge, which eschewed the rampant sex, drug use, and drinking that had almost overshadowed the scene’s music. Atheism and veganism were also part of this lifestyle, which eventually became a full-fledged social movement, with a march on Washington and many political rallies. The band members never intended it to become such a vehement subculture, but it was nonetheless important.
Minor Threat also knew when to quit, breaking up the band after just a few years’ activity, with just enough material to fill out a 50-minute CD. Along with their sociopolitical beliefs, they inspired dozens of other hardcore bands to follow in their wake. Their hometown of Washington D.C. became a musical hotbed for this genre.
Ian MacKaye wasn’t done innovating yet. He regrouped with some other guys later to form Fugazi, which is a subject for another blog post.
Key track: “Minor Threat”
See also: Group Sex – the Circle Jerks (1980)