Two-Minute Warning: Songs That Do More In 120 Seconds (Or Less) Than You Do All Day!


If radio had its way, all songs would be less than two minutes long so they could play more commercials, but, as it stands, there just aren't a whole lot of bands who specialize in keeping it short and sweet.  Those that do, more times than not, are doing us all a favor (Dead Milkmen, I'm looking a you), but that's not to say there aren't plenty of sub-two minute gems to be found.  And, yes, there may be a Ramones tune or three.  Hell, this entire list could have been comprised of ONLY Ramones songs.  As it stands, we limited ourselves to one selection per band and that one selection being the best representation of what said band accomplished in less than two minutes.



"Help!" The Damned

The fact that this song clocks in at under two minutes is even more amazing when you consider that the band takes a good half minute to thank everyone from the road crew to the bouncers and so on before launching into an effective reinventing of the oft-heard Beatles tune.   Sadly, few folks outside the UK even know of this song's existence due to the fact that it appeared on the live album Final Damnation in '88, long after the band's punk heyday.  What makes this career-spanning live album even more remarkable is how the stage line-up changes based on who played on the studio version of the song in question, which means Bryn Merrick replaces Captain Sensible on the last half of the album.  Quite amazingly, the pace and the quality doesn't suffer as much as you might think, and the album closes with a raucous five-minute celebration of the Stones' "The Last Time" that gives the original a serious run for its money.



"Walking Distance" The Buzzcocks

Is there a greater instrumental in all of rock & roll, much less the UK post-punk scene?  It's got an urgent yet majestic opening guitar riff that announces itself like the fookin' arrival of rock royalty and then proceeds to weave in, out and around the rhythm section, creating 1:58 of total controlled madness.  All hail the Buzzcocks.



"Whatcha Gonna Do About It" Small Faces

Sure, by '65 the Beatles were all the rage, but in the UK there remained a large blues contingent based around the success of the Stones, who had yet to leave their blues roots behind for more centrist rock fare, and the Mod movement led by the Who.  No better song could have announced the arrival of this new London band and for those who think Jesus & Mary Chain were the first band to embrace rampant distortion, just check out Marriott's wonderfully shambolic guitar solo.  There's a reason both the Pistols and Pretenders would cover this tune



"Dead And Alive" Dead Boys

Fewer songs capture the devil-may-care nihilism that Stiv Bator embodied for much of his career than this sub-two minute blast of pure punk ferocity.  While the rest of their second album, We Have Come For Your Children, seems intent on proving the band capable of being mentioned in the same breath as "credible" bands of the day, this track condenses all of the band's strengths into one damn near perfect punk anthem.



"Paper Dolls" The Innocence Mission

You probably thought this was gonna be all punk bands, didn't ya?  If you're like most people, your knowledge of this band begins and ends with "Bright As Yellow", but those who've had the good fortune to somehow come in contact with the band's ethereal debut album from '89 can still remember the shivers they felt upon hearing album-opener "Plastic Dolls" for the first time.  Karen Paris's voice is a heady mix of Harriet Wheeler (Sundays), Natalie Merchant and Maria McKee (Lone Justice) and should have been enough to take this band farther.  I'll be perfectly honest and tell you that most of the other songs on this list seem absolutely perfect in length, giving you exactly what you want in a tight little package, but this song begins to fade just as it pulls you in and you're left wanting more, so much more.



"Fuck School" The Replacements

It can be said that this was the Mats at their most embryonic, but I contend that the band was already ahead of the curve and that this song marked the exact moment when the band embraced and outgrew the limitations of punk.  Their next full-length Hootenanny would mark a stark shift in focus.  This was 100% due to Westerberg was charting his own musical course rather than following the done-to-death (even back then) punk template.  If you need a reminder of the band's early punk prowess, begin and end here.



"Career Opportunities" The Clash

The obvious choice to include here would have been "White Riot", if not for the fact that it's more slogan than song.  On this cut, though, you see the band's respect for rock tradition (Bobby Fuller Four, Eddie Cochran  and the like), the reggae influence, and Strummer's infectious enthusiasm as a true vocal presence.




"Judy Is A Punk" The Ramones

In truth, their version of "Do You Wanna Dance?" is perhaps the most perfect two minutes in all of rock, but it's a cover.  We went with "Judy" instead because it's got everything a Ramones song should have, a) bubblegum hooks flying from all directions, b) breakneck tempo, and c) be about a girl.  It's also only ninety six seconds long.  This song is proof positive that NO Ramones song should ever have been more than two minutes long.



"Snake Oil Tanker" Alkaline Trio

Representing the great city of Chicago, the almighty "Al Kaline Trio" turn in the blistering "Snake Oil Tanker", which was the first song on their first EP, For Your Lungs Only.  More importantly, it announced a new player in the already-crowded '90s punk resurgence, yet separated them from the pack with the dark and macabre lyrics of Matt Skiba.  As he sings "I know that you wish I was dead/I know 'cause you told me last weekend", we quickly realize this wasn't just love lost, this was love killed slowly and painfully.



"The Strip" Naked Raygun

On their second album, All Rise, the band were without original drummer Jim Colao, but the songs were tighter and more musically varied than ever.  "The Strip" condenses the band's entire aesthetic at the time down to 1:46 and even manages to throw in a couple trademark tempo changes for good measure.

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