Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August 5: Minor Threat, "Complete Discography"

Artist: Minor Threat
Album: Complete Discography
Year: 1988
Label: Dischord

When it comes to the cornerstones of the hardcore scene, one name and one band stand far above the rest: Ian MacKaye and Minor Threat. Few bands have so clearly and singlehandedly defined a genre like Minor Threat, and the bands' sound, style, and ethos remain fully intact nearly thirty years after the release of their only full length album. Taking the style of punk, and making it faster, more stripped down, yet more honest and raw, the intensity and energy that is found within the music of Minor Threat spurred an entirely new genre and lifestyle. Only releasing one full length record, the bands' music was primarily released via singles, EP's, and compilation tracks. All of these releases are held as some of the most important songs of the hardcore scene, and original pressings are some of the most sought after collectors items. In 1988, Dischord Records pulled all of the songs together and released the unbeatable, Complete Discography.

Minor Threat was formed by high school friends Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson shortly after their former band, the legendary Teen Idles, broke up. Complete Discography is exactly what one would assume; a collection of the bands' three EP's, the entire Out Of Step album, as well as the various tracks that they contributed to compilations. There are, in fact, two different versions of the album; with the first pressing having the red cover shown above, and later pressings featuring the same track listing and artwork, but a blue cover instead of red. With the twenty-six songs clocking in at just under forty-eight minutes, the album is a blisteringly fast fury of hardcore mastery. It is within this collection that one finds all of the groundwork that is now known as the "straight edge" lifestyle. The principles behind the "straight edge" lifestyle is the complete absence of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, as well as promiscuous sex. These ideals stand in stark contrast to the "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" spirit of the previous generation, and the strong sense of shared, more responsible values quickly earned the band a devoted following of like-minded individuals. Though the band has said numerous times that they had no intention of it becoming the movement that it is, the bands' views spoke to a large, perhaps alienated audience and became a sub-genre of the hardcore sound. While the actual song, "Straight Edge," encapsulates everything the lifestyle stands for, other Minor Threat songs, like "In My Eyes" and "Out Of Step (With The World)" also speak directly to the same values. From the words they sang to the manner in which they conducted their business (read as: all ages shows, keeping prices low), Minor Threat always stayed true to their values and morals, and demanded the same of their audience.

Simply put, the music of Minor Threat represents hardcore music in its purest form. The music is straightforward and never lets up in speed or intensity. Drummer and band founder, Jeff Nelson, is absolutely stellar throughout the entire album. Keeping things uncomplicated, yet faster than nearly anything before him, Nelson set the standard for the genre with his performance. Guitarist Lyle Preslar is easily one of the most aggressive guitar players ever, as his playing drives each song into a frenzy of fast paced mayhem. After his work with Minor Threat, Preslar played with Glenn Danzig, as well as running Caroline records, where he signed artists like Ben Folds and The Chemical Brothers. On Minor Threat's Complete Discography, Brian Baker plays both guitar and bass. The first half of the album, Baker is on bass, playing brilliantly and perfectly complimenting Nelson's drumming. In 1982, Steve Hansgen joined the band on bass, and Baker moved to become the second guitarist. The addition and switch proves no problem for the band, and the increased sound makes the bands' music all that much more powerful. The fact is, though many bands have tried to copy their sound, Minor Threat reign supreme based on their amazing amount of talent, as well as their unique, often unsettling sense of urgency. On each song found on Minor Threat's Complete Discography, the music is potent and pointed, delivering the bands' messages in the most efficient, stunning manner possible.

At the center of Minor Threat is the Godfather of the hardcore, straight-edge, and D.I.Y. rock movements, Dischord Records founder and owner, Ian MacKaye. One would be hard pressed to find another individual who has had as crucial and long lasting an impact on a specific genre than MacKaye. The intensity and energy of MacKaye remains largely unmatched, and his lyrics are easily some of the most intellectual of any genre ever. MacKaye constantly changes between speaking, singing, and yelling, going where the mood of the song demands. At times, his lyrics are so righteous that it is almost as if he is preaching, and one cannot help but be moved and inspired by his words. Whether he is speaking on what became the "straight edge" lifestyle, or writing on racism, as well as politically infused lyrics. The bands' lyrics almost demanded that their audience be more intellectually "switched on," and this furthered the more conscious and conscientious way of living that the band promoted. Minor Threat also took a moment on the Flex Your Head compilation to pay tribute to one of their own influences, Wire, with their high-octane cover of " 12XU," which is also found on Complete Discography. While most complete discographies are far too lengthy and wide-ranging for the uninitiated, in the case of Minor Threat, it is not only a great introduction to the band, but to the entire hardcore genre as well.

With many bands and artists, it is truly a difficult job to accurately explain just how massive their impact was on the music world. In the case of Minor Threat, they spawned two genres on their own, as well as permanently altering "how" the music business "works" with their D.I.Y. approach. It is even more stunning when one considers that all of this influence was done over the course of just under three years. Representing the pinnacle of the Washington, D.C. hardcore punk scene, few bands are worthy to even be mentioned in the same sentence. Featuring some of the most revered names in the hardcore and punk scenes, drummer Jeff Nelson and bassists Brian Baker and Steve Hansgen create one of the most powerful rhythm sections ever assembled. The crushing guitar of Lyle Preslar often sounds as if he is going to incite a riot with his lightning fast, almost violent guitar playing. At the core of the bands' sound is the unmatched writing and singing of Ian MacKaye. There have truly been every few artists of his caliber, and he remains one of the most highly respected and innovative musicians in the world today. Recording a massive amount of unbeatable songs in just under three years, Minor Threat's 1988 Complete Discography is an absolute essential for any music fan, as well as being one of the most influential records ever recorded.

Standout tracks: "Straight Edge," "Minor Threat," and, "12XU."

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