They were three working-class guys from San Pedro, who named themselves after the revolutionary militia from the American War of Independence. Famous for their short, thrashing songs and politicized lyrics, The Minutemen are the subject of this respectful documentary from director Tim Irwin. Comprising archival gig footage and numerous talking heads, We Jam Econo is a must for the trio's fans, although non-aficionados of the group's cacophonous music may be puzzled by all the on-screen accolades showered on the band.
Founder member and bassist Mike Watt turns out to be the most significant contributor here, providing a running commentary on locations and haunts that were integral to the story of The Minutemen. He talks about the miscellaneous influences that fed into their sound - including rockabilly, funk, and jazz - and he emphasises the galvanizing influence of punk's DIY ethos on their creative endeavours. And 20 years on, it's clear how affected he has been by the death of lead singer and guitarist D Boon in a car accident, a tragedy which signalled the end of The Minutemen just months after they had toured with R.E.M.
"A PARTISAN TRIBUTE"
But although We Jam Econo succeeds in terms of being a partisan tribute, it short-changes viewers who may be seeking a more critical evaluation of the group. Whilst interviewees lavish their praise on albums such as the 48-song Double Nickels On The Dime, there are no voices here that question the achievements and talents of The Minutemen. And unlike say Julien Temple's exploration of the Sex Pistols, The Filth And The Fury, Irwin's film fails to illuminate the wider cultural context in which his chosen musical mavericks operated.