Minor Threat - Salad Days [EP] (Cover Artwork)

Minor Threat

Salad Days [EP] (1985)

Dischord Records

The year was 1983 and things were looking great for American hardcore; a distinct sound was being carved out, straight edge was becoming a thing and interesting bands full of youthful enthusiasm were constantly emerging. The passage of time, however, is brutally relentless and not everyone is always on the same page when it comes to change.

The driving force behind Minor Threat, Ian MacKaye, was dissatisfied with the reality of the hardcore scene and felt (in part) responsible to the violence and closed-mindedness began to entrench themselves. After eventually deciding to call it quits, Minor Threat reverted to their classic four-piece arrangement and recorded their final release in December 1983, a few months after their last show. This EP came out a couple years later and stands out for a notable musical shift and an overarching theme of progression.

While the fast punk rock for which they became known for is not entirely absent, the writing and performances are more intricate, thought out and inventive. The use of acoustic guitars and chimes on “Salad Days”, for example, may sound somewhat out of place, but it still packs the familiar Minor Threat punch. Lyrically MacKaye is a blunt as ever in articulating his disdain for nostalgia and sense of detachment with the scene that he helped build. The message is clear: You will grow up, so move on.

This thematic is repeated on “Stumped”, which while coming off as a bit of a filler song, perfectly highlights the message of dissatisfaction. MacKaye is said to have written his lyrics during the recording sessions, rather than prepare them beforehand, which really shows here. The music starts off promising, but it never quite reaches the levels of confidence on their earlier material and sort of fizzles out. The song ends with Ian noting how that take was “good enough”.

For their final song, Minor Threat covered “Good Guys Don’t Wear White” by 1960s garage band The Standells. Rather than punk it up though, like they did with their covers of “12XU” and “Stepping Stone”, they simply sped it up a bit and went for an acoustic folk rock sound. If this doesn’t hammer in the idea that they have moved on, I don’t know what will. Don’t forget, this was 1983, when acoustic side projects were not the norm for punk bands.

Although many hardcore bands eventually tire of the genre’s limitations and move on to other sounds and ideas, few have managed to do so as seamlessly and satisfactory as Minor Threat have with their final release. Given the greatness that was to come with Fugazi, the Salad Days EP serves as a sincere, bitter-sweet goodbye by one of the scene’s finest and most influential bands.