Double Nickels on the Dime

Double Nickels on the Dime

Minutemen’s Double Nickels On the Dime is punk rock’s great American novel. On more than 40 tracks spread across four sides of vinyl, the tightly wound San Pedro trio blurs genres both literary and musical, ping-ponging between polemics, surrealism, and autobiography. Hardcore, funk, jazz, folk, satirical pop, flamenco, no-fi live recordings, free-form percussion workouts—nothing was off-limits to this musically omnivorous, sui generis band. SST labelmates Hüsker Dü were planning the deeply ambitious Zen Arcade, an album whose double-LP would not only expand the duration of hardcore punk, but test its limits with nods to folk and psychedelia. Energized by their concept (acknowledged by a friendly “Take that, Hüskers!” in the liner notes), the Minutemen took an album-length session they did in 1983 and exploded it into a widescreen epic. Inspired by Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, each member claimed a side of vinyl and drew straws to see whose section got which songs (the playful Side D represents the “chaff,” including a cover of Steely Dan’s “Dr. Wu” and the Meters-esque instrumental “Love Dance”). In the previous three years, the Minutemen had released more than a half-dozen frantic, nervy releases packed with tiny songs that blurred by and crashed into each other. Double Nickels doesn't slow down too much—only a handful of tunes cross the two-minute mark—but allows a little more breathing room for songcraft, grooves, and experimentation. Embracing both the speed and anything-goes freedom they gleaned from hardcore punk, they imbued their songs with influence from post-punk pioneers Wire, the dancy and hyperliterate Pop Group, and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s workingman’s swamp rock. Guitarist/singer D. Boon questioned American foreign policy (“Viet Nam,” “Untitled Song for Latin America”) and raged against advertising (“Shit from an Old Notebook"). Inspired by the shifting narrative structure and metatextual tricks from James Joyce’s Ulysses, bassist Mike Watt would insert himself into songs (“One Reporter's Opinion”) and sing about semiotics (“Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?”). “It seemed to me then, and it still does now, that [Joyce] was trying to write about everything,” Watt said. “And in a way the Minutemen were trying to do the same.” Of the 40-plus songs on Double Nickels, the country-fried “Corona” would obviously have the longest life, repurposed as the theme to the Jackass series of TV shows and films. Drummer George Hurley’s intro to “It’s Expected I’m Gone” is the closest thing that hardcore has to an iconic hip-hop breakbeat record; his drums have been looped by both Sublime and Pinback. Covering so much ground both lyrically and musicially, the album would influence everyone from superstars like the Red Hot Chili Peppers to jazz-rock titans like Nels Cline to 2020s-era indie stars like Horsegirl. The phrase “Our band could be your life” from “History Lesson — Part II” would not only serve as the title of the preeminent book on the ’80s indie label revolution, but a call to arms for generations of bands doing things DIY.

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada