There’s an old story, not sure if it’s true, but it’s a good one. Before he was President, Mayor Calvin Coolidge of Northampton, MA, a man of few words, a man jokingly referred to as “Silent Cal,” was approached by a woman, at a dinner. “I made a bet, today, that I could get more than two words out of you,” she said.
Coolidge responded: “Fuck you.”
Sometimes, brevity is king. An old saying, one kicked around the entertainment business, goes: “Always leave them wanting more.” Holy Ghost, Modern Baseball’s excellent new album, a clean eleven songs in 24 minutes, has me thinking about classic albums that exist as a complete statement, without exceeding the thirty minute mark. Here are six of them.
Coachwhips, Bangers Vs. Fuckers
Thee Oh Sees—the latest of California garage rock impresario John Dwyer’s ambitious, eclectic bands—have long been known for their brand of wide-eyed psychedelia and their ultra-high energy live shows. Since a complete lineup change in 2014, though, Dwyer seems to have lost some of the energy, drifting a little too far into the meandering territory of earlier experimental albums like Dog Poison. Go back into the past for a glimpse of the frantic mania Dwyer and Co. do best, specifically Bangers Vs. Fuckers, the third and final mission statement from Coachwhips. It’s pure pop for insane people: all Farfisa and overdriven guitars, and one can practically smell the sweat pouring off this record, it’s that greasy. Best part is, it’s over and done in 17 minutes.
Descendents, Milo Goes To College
Arguably, Milo Goes to College is the flash point from which pop punk sprang. Milo Aukerman’s nerdy frustration begat heart-on-sleeve punkers like Mikey Erg, and the band’s puerile sense of humor informed later arena favorites like Blink-182. Titled in honor of Milo’s departure from the group to study molecular biology, Milo Goes to College is a perfect document of early 80s frustration with Reaganomics, girls, and what’s expected of us when we grow up. At fifteen songs in twenty-two minutes, College set the gold standard for quick, to the point punk albums.
Minutemen, The Punch Line
The Minutemen would go on to make one of SST’s top five records (the still-essential Double Nickels on the Dime) and follow it with a couple of serious head-scratchers (the consciously “radio-friendly” Project: Mersh and the meandering, unfocused Three Way Tie (For Last)) before D. Boon’s untimely death in December 1985. On The Punch Line, the Minutemen’s first “full length” album, all of the elements were already in place: George Hurley’s skittering drums, Mike Watt’s larger-than-life bass riffage, and Boon’s funk-inflected guitar and booming voice. Watt once said about the Minutemen, “We don’t write songs, we write rivers.” The eighteen tracks that make up The Punch Line flow by like a pissed-off river, indeed, and all information has been disseminated in a clean fifteen minutes.
Lee Hazlewood, Requiem For An Almost Lady
The rumor behind Lee Hazlewood’s best album is that he wrote and recorded it in secret, showed up at long time girlfriend and collaborator Suzi Jane Hokom’s house, with a finished copy. The record had been written as a breakup letter, and he handed it to her and walked out of her life. The story may not be true. Lee was reticent about his personal life, and preferred to let rumors about him swirl around as fact. But Requiem for an Almost Lady is as mournful and bitter a breakup album as one could ever hope to hear. Rife with reverb-drenched spoken intros, Hazlewood’s deep baritone is sparsely accompanied by two acoustic guitars and a thick upright bass. Hazlewood tells his side of their story over the course of ten short folk songs, adding, at the end, “In the end, there was nothing. But, believe me: It was no fun, waiting for nothing to end.”
Dwarves, Blood, Guts and Pussy
The sleaziest three chord punk rock this side of Turbonegro, Dwarves albums are sweat soaked, debaucherous, filthy affairs. The variety of punk rockers that operate under pseudonyms because they’re wanted by the police and probably really DO live in the back seat of a car, Blag Dahlia and HeWhoCannotBeNamed have been playing the role of sleazy Pied Pipers, leading unknowing legions of punk rockers across the tracks to the bad part of town since the 80s. Their best, Blood, Guts and Pussy, is 12 minutes of boozy, bruisy punk rock. It’s over before your downstairs neighbor can even start banging on the ceiling with a broom.
Joyce Manor, Joyce Manor
Joyce Manor take the quick and dirty approach of a band like the Dwarves or Descendents and apply it to the sound of mid-90s emo. Imagine if the Promise Ring were even quicker, more acerbic, and even more to the point. You’re not far off. Where a lot of modern emo seems to be missing the inherent fun of earlier bands in the genre, Joyce Manor almost demand fist-pumping, and heartfelt screaming along to the choruses. Probably a blast, live. Get in on this, before it’s over.