“We Jam Econo”

I just got done watching We Jam Econo, the 2005 documentary about 80s San Pedro punk band the Minutemen. It’s a superb film, packed full of interviews with dozens of punk and hardcore veterans enthusing about one of the most enduring and treasured bands of the US hardcore and punk scenes. Interspersed with this are fifteen or so live performances of songs from the band’s career, brutally truncated by guitarist/singer D. Boon’s death in 1985.

The Minutemen are a powerful band for me for many reasons. The close friendship between Mike Watt and D. Boon that’s at the core of everything they did. The way in which the pronounced treble of Boon’s guitar, the hooky funk of Watt’s bass and George Hurley’s top-focused drums interacted in a truly unique and deliberately democratic band dynamic, a dynamic that was fraught with tension and yet never snapped. The lyrics that fused the political with the personal in a way that most lyricists can only dream of. The boundary-pushing songwriting that sounds as casual as it is structurally and conceptually revolutionary. The way in which the band celebrated, through action and simple existence, estrangement and acceptance. Their desire to make music and play shows for the everyman, the working man. That they never spoke down to their audience, despite being in many ways a deeply enigmatic and private band that could be difficult to comprehend. That the constant misinterpretation of their music, lyrics and even band name was just part and parcel of what they did. Fundamentally unpretentious and yet with each album, each song brimming with more ideas than most of their contemporaries could imagine. In so many ways they epitomised the concept of do-it-yourself.

This band could be your life. There’s a lot to learn from what the Minutemen accomplished, and I’m still enjoying learning. We Jam Econo is a shining tribute to the band and is essential watching for anyone who seeks to understand why punk rock is and continues to be a significant force in art and music.

our band could be your life
real names’d be proof
me and mike watt played for years
punk rock changed our lives

we learned punk rock in hollywood
drove up from pedro
we were fucking corndogs
we’d go drink and pogo

mr. narrator
this is bob dylan to me
my story could be his songs
i’m his soldier child

our band is scientist rock
but i was e. bloom and richard hell,
joe strummer, and john doe
me and mike watt, playing guitar

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