Released in 1985 on SST
, 3-Way Tie (for Last)
was the fourth and final album by the Minutemen
, one of L.A.'s most creative and eclectic '80s punk groups. The band had already made punk history with the 50-song masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime
, and now they were relaxing a little.
The self-deprecating title is a good hint that this was one of their more laid-back records. A lot of this influence came from their contemporaries the Meat Puppets, to whom Minutemen singer D. Boon was paying close attention. In trying to emulate their loose style of playing, he conflicted somewhat with guitarist Mike Watt, who preferred a more disciplined approach. On the other hand, Boon was still writing political songs (leftist, of course) while Watt was interested in more experimental lyricism. The result was an extremely diverse and disparate record with some moments great, others forgettable.
Perhaps the most notable thing to long-time Minutemen fans was that the songs were getting so long. Although they weren't actually named for it, it is true that most of their early songs were barely more than a minute in length. Double Nickels had showcased their first song to break the three-minute mark, and on 3-Way Tie they got their first four-minute number: a cover of Blue Oyster Cult's "The Red and the Black" at 4:09. Many of the songs on the first half of the album, including the sublime "The Big Stick", contain elements, such as mid-tempos, choruses, and guitar solos, that were almost completely absent from their earlier work; but then, the band had always been among the only punk bands to "un-ironically" cover classic rock songs. And this album has five covers in total, among them not only punk bands like the Urinals and the Meat Puppets but also bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival (a pretty good version of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?").
Toward the second half of the album we get more influence from Mike Watt: the songs get shorter and more angular, just like the band of old (many of his ideas came from his then-girlfriend, Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler). On the other hand, some of the album's experiments sound like nothing they ever did before, such as "Spoken Word Piece", a very strange track indeed, and "Hittin' the Bong", a pretty but very short interlude of Spanish guitar. The whole album is punctuated by unexpected moments of eclecticism: those mentioned above and others such as the flamenco rhythms of "What Is It?" and the bizarre and frankly unnecessary wailing in "Political Nightmare".
Reaction to the album was mixed, in accordance with the album's mixed quality. What is certain is that the band still had the capacity to write great songs. But they never got the chance to do it again: in December 1985, D. Boon was killed in a motor accident on his way to Arizona, and one can only wonder what they would have done next.
Tracklisting: (total run-time 36:15 minutes)
- The Price of Paradise (3:38)
- Lost (2:33)
- The Big Stick (2:34)
- Political Nightmare (3:56)
- Courage (2:35)
- Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (2:30)
- The Red and the Black (4:09)
- Spoken Word Piece (1:07)
- No One (3:29)
- Stories (1:36)
- What Is It? (1:51)
- Ack Ack Ack (0:27)
- Just Another Soldier (1:58)
- Situations at Hand (1:23)
- Hittin' the Bong (0:41)
- Bermuda (1:41)