The Minutemen may have come out of the same California hardcore scene that produced Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Fear, but they not only bore little resemblance to their West Coast contemporaries, they didn't sound much like anyone else in American rock at that time. The Punch Line was the band's first album, packing 18 tunes into less than 25 minutes, and if the music shares hardcore's lust for speed and assaultive rhythmic punch, their sharp, fragmented melodies, complex tempos, and overtly poetic and political lyrics made clear they were rugged individuals; imagine James Blood Ulmer teaching Wire how to get funky and you start to get an idea of what The Punch Line sounds like. It wasn't until the band began to slow down a bit on What Makes a Man Start Fires? that the strength of the group's individual songs became clear, and The Punch Line works better as a unified sonic assault than as a collection of tunes, but moments do stand out, especially "Tension," "Fanatics," and the title cut, which certainly lends a new perspective to Native American history. The Punch Line was as wildly inventive as anything spawned by American punk, and the band would only get better on subsequent releases.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming