Can a band’s greatness be at least partially a product of its future influence? Can its ensuing cultural significance outside music reinforce this argument? What exists in the Teen Idles’ sole EP, Minor Disturbance, is not only a well-preserved time capsule of the development of early `80s American hardcore, it’s the forerunner to a band, song, and subsequent movement that would change the world well outside the furtive hardcore punk scenes dotted across the U.S. map.
If Minor Threat’s outcry in songs like “Straight Edge,” “Bottled Violence,” and “Out of Step (With the World)” embody the figurative “shot heard ‘round the world,” then the collective songs and semblance of the Teen Idles were the gunpowder. On its own, Minor Disturbance is at the very least, an impressive display of speed and aggression from four high school kids doing their best take on a style of music that was still in its very early stages of maturity.
However, there is clearly much more value to this release than what’s on the surface. A young Ian Mackaye manned the bass guitar on Minor Disturbance and provided backup vocals, while Jeff Nelson pounded the skins at tempos that rivaled legendary contemporaries Black Flag and Bad Brains. More importantly, however, Mackaye penned most of the lyrics that set a rough foundation for Minor Threat’s more infamous credos. The unapologetic “Deadhead” both demonstrated an early inclination to distance leftist punk from its psychedelic political parallel, the hippie movement, as well as a growing displeasure with drug abuse. The cheeky, self-admonition of “Teen Idles” also may have been an early inspiration for “TV Party,” sung by Mackaye’s childhood friend Henry Rollins in Black Flag: “If there were a concert we would go / Usually end up watching the prime time shows / Hours in front of a T.V. set / We're as idle as teens can get." “Fleeting Fury” seems to take direct aim at the Sex Pistols, not only with its lyrical hints of “Cries of anarchy, cries of freedom / Cries of fury in the United Kingdom / […] / A loaded pistol at your head / You won't be satisfied 'til you're dead,“ but also with a title that bears a remarkable similarity to “The Filth and the Fury.” The fairly amateur sounding -- though aptly-titled -- Too Young To Rock” is the EP’s only live track, and attacks the established ageism in society, while laying the basis for the all-ages philosophy embraced by Mackaye’s later bands such as Fugazi and the Evens, and the general Dischord attitude.
By 1980, the Teen Idles’ brief existence had come to an end. Mackaye and Nelson would go on to form Minor Threat, while guitarist Geordie would provide the fodder for “Filler,” the first track of Minor Threat’s eponymous discography. Though the later works of its members would ultimately become more widely recognized, Minor Disturbance is the proving ground that got them there.