The Minutemen had as high a batting average as any band that came out of the California punk scene, releasing a number of superb records that confirmed their status as one of the finest, most intelligent, most forward-thinking, and most individual bands of their time. However, there isn't an awful lot of that on The Politics of Time; this compilation ties together a bagful of studio outtakes, rehearsal recordings, and live tapes of highly variable quality (one of which is thoroughly inaudible; it's a joke, but not necessarily a funny one). The album leads off well enough with seven tunes the band recorded for an unreleased album. Stylistically, the songs fit comfortably between the ambitious What Makes a Man Start Fires? and the magnum opus Double Nickels on the Dime; on their own, they would have made for a superb EP, and "Working Men Are Pissed" and "Shit You Hear at Parties" are excellent. But side two is bogged down with far too many unfocused, lo-fi live tapes, and while the selections by the Reactionaries (an embryonic version of the Minutemen) are historically interesting, ultimately they're little more than juvenilia from a band destined to create much stronger music. The Minutemen were far too gifted to make an album that wasn't worth hearing, and completists will be more than willing to forgive the duff tracks to get at the handful of great songs here, but ultimately The Politics of Time is the band's least essential release.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming