1983, Music

What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1983) by Minutemen

This is such a unique take on hardcore – if you can even call it hardcore, since it’s hardly loud enough or musically violent enough to qualify. It’s like something else. I see the descriptor “post punk” thrown around, which might fit, though Minutemen sound absolutely nothing like the British post punk bands (or the few American ones, either). If this is post-hardcore, as some claim, it’s the first record, which would make it a lot bigger deal than most of us seem to think it is. (Remember, Zen Arcade came out well after this record.) Whether or not it is the first post hardcore record is something I’m going to have to struggle with for a while. Anyway…

The songs are brief, like you would expect, and occasionally (but rarely) as noisy as songs by their contemporaries. Boon’s speak-singing really distinguishes them from the other punk bands but it’s Watt’s songs which are really out there, not really resembling anything else punk bands were making at the time. They are distinctly Watt (who I am familiar with through fIREHOSE and his solo work) but punkier.

It’s a hard one to wrap my head around: it’s not as immediately accessible as just about every other of the early ’80s punk bands that transitioned to something else (Husker, Replacements, etc), in part because Watt’s sense of melody is really not up to other songwriters’. But they’re so unique and original; I know on an intellectual level this is a big deal. I think I need to give it more time to come to love it.

This may well be the first ever post hardcore record; if it is, it deserves higher marks.


Read my reviews of music from 1983 or read my reviews of Minutemen records.

  1. “Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs” – 1:27 (Watt)
  2. “One Chapter in the Book” – 1:00 (Watt)
  3. “Fake Contest” – 1:44 (Watt)
  4. “Beacon Sighted Through Fog” – 1:00 (Watt)
  5. “Mutiny in Jonestown” – 1:06 (Boon/Watt)
  6. “East Wind/Faith” – 2:10 (Hurley/Watt)
  7. “Pure Joy” – 1:30 (Hurley/Watt)
  8. “’99” – 1:00 (Hurley/Watt)
  9. “The Anchor” – 2:30 (Hurley/Watt)
  10. “Sell or Be Sold” – 1:45 (Boon/Watt)
  11. “The Only Minority” – 1:00 (Boon/Watt)
  12. “Split Red” – 0:52 (Boon/Watt)
  13. “Colors” – 2:05 (Boon/Watt)
  14. “Plight” – 1:37 (Boon/Watt)
  15. “The Tin Roof” – 1:08 (Watt)
  16. “Life as a Rehearsal” – 1:35 (Watt)
  17. “This Road” – 1:26 (Watt)
  18. “Polarity” – 1:44 (Watt)
  • D. Boon – guitar, lead vocals
  • Mike Watt – bass, backing vocals
  • George Hurley – drums, oil drums

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