We Jam Econo: The Story Of The Minutemen

No band ever earned the right to sing "Our band could be your life" more thoroughly than the Minutemen, and Tim Irwin's entertaining documentary is packed with great, no-fi footage from the band's glory days. Until the band's untimely dissolution in 1985, the trio of singer-guitarist D. Boon, singer-bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley summed up the...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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No band ever earned the right to sing "Our band could be your life" more thoroughly than the Minutemen, and Tim Irwin's entertaining documentary is packed with great, no-fi footage from the band's glory days. Until the band's untimely dissolution in 1985, the trio of singer-guitarist D. Boon, singer-bassist Mike Watt and drummer George Hurley summed up the entire indie-punk-DIY ethos. Hailing from the working-class neighborhoods of San Pedro, Calif., the Minutemen subscribed to the idea that music was something anyone could do, and in the process created groundbreaking sonic art on a shoestring. In short, they jammed econo. Formed in 1979, the Minutemen combined Boon's Beat-styled poetic musings and Watt's Beefheartian rhythmic innovation into short, sharp blasts of Wire-inspired art punk. In 1980, the band was invited by Black Flag's bassist, Greg Ginn, to record a short EP for his fledgling label, SST Records. With their obliquely political lyrics and abbreviated running time (no track lasted much longer than a minute), the seven songs on "Paranoid Time" set the tone for everything that would later culminate in their undisputed two-disc masterpiece, 1984's Double Nickels on the Dime. Irwin uses contemporary interviews with Watt and Hurley (Boon was killed in a car crash in 1985) to sketch out the band's history, beginning with Watt's and Boon's adolescent friendship as Blue Oyster Cult-loving history geeks and ending with Boon's death, intercut with performance footage dating back to the Minutemen's early gigs at L.A.'s legendary Starwood and Cathay de Grande; as one interviewee points out, you've never seen a fat man move until you've seen Boon with his bass. The real heart of the film, however, lies in the affectionate testimonials from such punk luminaries as Jello Biafra and Richard Hell, as well as the Minutemen's SST label-mates Henry Rollins (Black Flag) and Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth). At a time when being in a "punk" band means getting some tattoos and memorizing the Green Day songbook, Irwin's film comes as a bracing reminder of what punk was once all about, and will hopefully serve as an inspiration for better bands to come.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: No band ever earned the right to sing "Our band could be your life" more thoroughly than the Minutemen, and Tim Irwin's entertaining documentary is packed with great, no-fi footage from the band's glory days. Until the band's untimely dissolution in 1985,… (more)

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