Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Minutemen: What Makes a Man Start Fires? [SST, 1982]
The lyrics are richer, bleaker, and smarter than the hardcore rant that softened the world up for this art band in disguise, but I prefer their music. The more you listen the less fragmentary these eighteen tense little guess-you-have-to-call-them tunes sound--each transforms its own riff into an identity that meshes with the album's guess-you-have-to-call-it gestalt. Since they're not purist (or unpop) enough to resist putting the strongest material first, their steady-state kineticism does lose a notch or two of stress as each side proceeds, but that's the only way they could work it--any kind of climax would be too romantic for these guys. A-