The Minutemen’s magnum opus is really a magnum opus, coming in at a fairly ridiculous 45 tracks in 81 minutes. (That runtime is longer than Zen Arcade by over 10 minutes…) The band basically admits they included virtually everything they had, dubbing the final side “Chaff”. This is supposed to be a record by a hardcore punk band.
That’s the point though, this band of all hardcore bands of the era was never going to let “punk” define them, and here they do their best to demonstrate that it cannot. This is one of the most sprawling albums ever to released by a band which has been described as “punk” (at least before that word ceased to mean anything) and it is just an avalanche of material, musical ideas, in-jokes – try to figure out what the album title means! – and covers.
Some it works about as well as any Minutemen material I have heard – often funky, almost always unconventional and playing with your expectations (musically and lyrically), regularly provocative and sometimes funny. “Some of it” might not be fair. A lot of it works. Most of it perhaps.
But the problem is that there is so much here and they were not wrong in admitting that not all of this material probably deserved a release (as anything other than on rarities compilations). It’s hard to know what to do with the filler but that last side in particular, which brings up the sequencing. Why did they put all (or most of) the songs they thought were throwaways at the end? Wouldn’t you think nobody would listen to that part? (Especially on vinyl!)
But I worry I am sounding too critical. This is still a ridiculously bold statement from a band trying and succeeding to destroy unnecessary, (often) self-imposed genre conventions and doing a great job of it. Even the covers, which are often totally unnecessary, show how irreverent they are, and how little concern they have for whether or not some critic for fan thinks they are “punk” enough.
Part of the joy in kitchen sink albums is experiencing everything, not just the most successful stuff. I do think there is fun even in some of the throwaways but I do wish they would have sequenced the thing better.
That being said, this is still part of the death-knell for hardcore and one of the foundational documents of post hardcore (and alternative rock, really).