5 Killer Cover Songs: Minor Threat

Photo: Susie Josephson Horgan 

There are a few bands we can all think of when it comes to our entry into punk music. Some people lovingly—and some begrudgingly—refer to these groups as “starter kit” punk bands. One of those that constantly comes up is Washington, DC’s Minor Threat. Existing in the short window of 1980 to 1983, Minor Threat was able to blister a path of scorched earth littered with fast beats, ripping guitars and the signature shout of vocalist Ian Mackaye. They even released their material on their own label, Dischord Records, and helped to coin the term “straight edge," which continues to influence bands of that subgenre to this day.

While members went on to more laid back projects like Fugazi, their legacy looms large in punk and hardcore circles and their sound has inspired bands across all types of extreme music. Below you’ll find f5 covers by a unique swath of bands that also find themselves out of step with the world.

Pig Destroyer, "Betray"

Given the proximity of Virginia grindcore mainstays Pig Destroyer to Washington DC, it’s no surprise that Minor Threat had an influence on the band. While they may not sound the same, Pig Destroyer contains as much ferocity as any Minor Threat song you can point out in their discography. When 2012’s Book Burner was released by Philadelphia label Relapse Records, the deluxe version of the album was accompanied by a bonus disc containing Pig Destroyer’s renditions of various punk songs including selections by the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Angry Samoans, Void, and the track “Betray” by Minor Threat. 

I often find this song to be overlooked by Minor Threat’s more popular songs like “Minor Threat," “Straight Edge,” and “Out Of Step," but it’s a great track for sure. Pig Destroyer does it justice by speeding it up just a tad and adding vocalist JR Hayes’ patented howls over the music. I’d highly suggest checking out all of their bonus material from Book Burner.

Bones Brigade, "No Reason"

What bands come to mind when the subgenre skate punk is brought to light? Pennywise? Suicidal Tendencies? All acceptable answers, but the ultimate skate punk band to me is the Boston band Bones Brigade. The title of their first LP says it all: I Hate Myself When I’m Not Skateboarding. The lyrical content of the record varies; everything from thrashing on your board to horror movies are discussed. The record closes with the band’s rendition of the latter day Minor Threat jam “No Reason” from the Out of Step album.

To be frank, it kicks ass. The band smashes through the track with reckless abandon, really channeling the spirit of Minor Threat with a little more venom. I always feel like “No Reason” gets lost in the conversation of great MT songs based on how far the song is from the start of their discography. It’s a great track that definitely deserves to be talked about more.

Silverchair, "Minor Threat"

After the death of Kurt Cobain, record labels were scrambling to find the next Nirvana. One of the bands mixed up in the fervor of the grunge wave of the mid-'90s was Australia’s Silverchair, who released their first LP, Frogstomp, at the ages of 15 years old. Further down the road, after the release of the band’s third full-length, Neon Ballroom, the Australian and European CD single for “Miss You Love” was released in 1999. The song was accompanied by a few covers, including two Black Flag tracks and the titular song “Minor Threat." 

Given the band’s presence in the music industry through the latter half of their teens, the song was almost a no-brainer. They manage to capture the essence of the song through a well-polished studio recording. Compared to the material on Neon Ballroom, the punk covers Silverchair also recorded during those sessions stick out pretty far, but for the band as a whole still make sense.

Thrice, "Seeing Red/Screaming at a Wall"

The more I look around on the internet, the more it seems many people had their musical horizons broadened by the soundtracks to Tony Hawk’s video games. Looking back, seeing the bands that were included is pretty surprising: Unsane, the Dead Kennedys, Fu Manchu, and Agent Orange were all included on the first handful of installments of the Pro Skater franchise. But the defining soundtrack for me was Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland. Not only did it feature songs by Mastodon, Pig Destroyer, 7 Seconds, and the Circle Jerks, but also included an entire album’s worth of covers of classic hardcore and punk songs.

One of the standouts from the original soundtrack is Thrice’s double dose of Minor Threat, tackling “Seeing Red” and “Screaming at a Wall” on a single track. To start, the songs blend perfectly, almost creating a live atmosphere where stopping would crush any sort of momentum the band has worked to create. The quality of the recording captures lo-fi and blown out tones in a really cool way, with singer Dustin Kensrue’s vocals sounding like they’re coming out of a maxed out PA system that’s about to catch on fire. Given the band’s leanings towards emocore and more poppier sounds around the time of the game’s release, hearing them take on a couple Minor Threat songs was a surprise, and a welcomed one at that.

Darkest Hour, "I Don't Wanna Hear It"

Washington, DC has offered up a litany of influential bands in underground music, with Minor Threat obviously leading the charge. One of the more interesting bands to come from the nation’s capital is Darkest Hour. Fusing the band’s influences of Swedish death metal, punk music, and everything in between, Darkest Hour has forged quite the path for themselves. In 2017, the band issued a three-song 7” with covers of “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” and Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” accompanied by the original track “Enter Oblivion” on Southern Lord Records.

The band’s take on the Minor Threat staple sounds great, with the first half of the song staying pretty true to the original, but the latter half garnering more of the band’s signature sound. Mid-tempo drums complement the riffs of the song, and a nasty solo pops up towards the end. Vocalist John Henry screeches in a very non-Ian Mackaye fashion, but it sounds great.


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Tagged: 5 killer cover songs, minor threat