Documentary Or The Truth?

'We Jam Econo' clocks the Minutemen DIY-style

Irwin is a semi-pro fan following his heroes' make-art example. At times, his fandom leads him to feel that shaping Watt's opaque discursions would be to rein him in. (Considering the band's warmly avant approach and deep mistrust for received narratives, this doc seems a little too straight-ahead.) And by privileging the reminiscences of an endless army of talking heads, Irwin skimps on context and narrative shape: Foregoing the "jam" in "jam econo," he rarely admits a perspective beyond "Holy shit, they ruled!" Of course, one can hardly be faulted for imperfectly arced dramatic pacing when dealing with a band whose "career" amounted to flooring the gas until they ran off a cliff. (Just working in mentions of all their records is a challenge.) Interchangeable hagiographic rambling has ruined many a worthy rock-doc, but Irwin gets more leeway than most, given the relative paucity of source material. By including roadies and rock critics, family and friends (including John Doe, Richard Hell, and Flea), the sense of democratic sweetness is only deepened. (And, hey--now I know what Joe Carducci looks like.)

Transcending limitations: The Minutemen in 'We Jam Econo'
Rocket Fuel Films
Transcending limitations: The Minutemen in 'We Jam Econo'

Besides, as the cant goes, punk is all about transcended limitations, right? The Minutemen's thunder is unbluntable. When Boon leans into the mic like it's a meal--or leaps into "Paranoid Chant" with its indelible refrain, "Everybody's scared shitless!"--their panicked belief echoes our collapsing present like a tremor no enemy can seal. Today, of course, the most Googleable iteration of "the Minutemen" is the neofascist gang who couldn't shoot straight down in the Arizona desert, priming their puds in prep for the coming border war. And the last twentysomething I heard big-upping Double Nickels turned out to be a Bush voter, one of those newfangled "indie-rock yuppies" we keep hearing about. How could history have laid the Spirit so low? Mike Watt's theory is as good as any: "Things happen."

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