There’ve been a lot of high-profile band documentaries in the past few years (DiG!, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, I’m Trying to Break Your Heart, etc.), but director Tim Irwin’s We Jam Econo (2005) is different in that Irwin’s subject is the Minutemen,the greatest band in the history of the world. Founded in San Pedro in 1980 by boyhood friends D. Boon (guitar) and Mike Watt (bass), with George Hurley joining on drums, the Minutemen personified the DIY ethos of the Los Angeles hardcore-punk scene like few others while making monumental music in the process. Driven by instinct, Boon and Watt sliced and diced their way through an eclectic field of musical influences — Dylan, Funkadelic, Captain Beefheart, the Urinals, Wire — to craft hard-driven, politically engaged minimalist riffs that cut like a buzz saw and dazzled like a kaleidoscope. It was a unique sound that, championed by Los Angeles punk progenitors Black Flag (whose label, SST, released the Minutemen’s first albums), found a tenuous home among punk’s three-chord crunch bands. Cruising through San Pedro with Watt in the latter’s Ford Econoline van, Irwin tracks the iconoclastic trio’s rise from the funky working-class neighborhoods of the harbor city to the clubs of Hollywood, through to Boon’s tragic death in 1985. The long lineup of testimonial interviews is like a who’s who of those who made growing up in the Reagan era tolerable: Minor Threat front man Ian MacKaye, X’s John Doe, the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, and rock critics Richard Meltzer and Byron Coley. Released by Plexifilm, this two-disc DVD includes video recordings of three complete Minutemen concerts from the early to mid-1980s, a plethora of deleted scenes and a 16-page booklet of filmmaker and liner notes.
Other recommended new releases: Cache (DVD); Strangers With Candy: The Complete Series (DVD). Also released this week: DVD: The Adventure of Photography: 150 Years of the Photographic Image; Almanac of Fall; Annapolis; Anxious Animation; Beautiful Stranger; Blood Bath; Blue Collar Comedy Tour: One for the Road; Border Street; The Boy and the Pirates/Crystalstone; Candy Stripers; Chicka Chicka 1 2 3 . . . And More Stories About Counting; Colt .38 Special Squad; Columbo: The Complete Fifth Season; Commander in Chief: The Inaugural Edition, Part 1; Convoy Busters; Cops vs. Thugs; Cut Shorts: Short Films of Dave Markey, 1974–2004; The Devil’s Sword; Failure to Launch; Fortunes of Captain Blood/Captain Pirate; Gwendoline; Happy Mondays: Live in Barcelona; The Hunt for Eagle One; Imagine Me & You; Johnny Aquarius; Labor Stories; Laughing in the Wind, Vol. 4; Leroy & Stitch; A Louvre Treasure: Awakening Apollo; Madea’s Family Reunion; Margot; Masters of Horror: Deer Woman; Masters of Photography: Andre Kertesz; Masters of Photography: Diane Arbus; Masters of Photography: Edward Steichen; Monk: Season Four; Monster in the Forest: The Story of the Cyclop; The Montreux Dream; My Name Was Sabrina Spielrein; 100% Arabica; The Porcelain Doll; Private Resort; Project Runway: The Complete Second Season; Puppets Who Kill: The Complete Second Season; Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare; Roseanne: The Complete Fourth Season; The Salzburg Festival; Shockheaded; Slings & Arrows: Season 1; Stalingrad; Tactics, Volume 1; That Day; Ultraviolet; Vera; Why We Fight; Yakuza Graveyard; Yellowbeard.