Mike Watt's new album a Minutemen tribute, shows he can still 'jam econo'
When most people think of punk rock, they don't think of a 53-year-old mustached man from San Pedro, Calif.
But Mike Watt is more punk than anyone on the planet. Watt began his music career as bassist for the Minutemen, a band which helped pioneer the American punk movement in the 1980s.
In his 30-plus years playing bass, Watt has not slowed down one bit. He still tours the country in his white Ford Econoline van and still "jams econo" as hard as he ever had.
On March 1, Watt released his fourth solo record, "Hyphenated-Man," a 30-song tribute to his late best friend and Minutemen guitarist/singer D. Boon. "Hyphenated-Man" is very much a throwback to Minutemen-esque songwriting. The songs are short (most under two minutes) and straight to the point, and every song was written by Watt on one of Boon's old Fender Telecaster guitars.
What sticks out most in the album is how Watt took an idea he perfected 25 years ago with the Minutemen and used that idea of brevity without sounding like he was ripping off his old band.
He has said in interviews that he actively avoided trying to write a Minutemen record — for one, drummer George Hurley doesn't play on it, and there is no Minutemen without D. Boon.
"Hyphenated-Man" is still the perfect album for any Minutemen fan. Songs like "Beak-Holding-Letter-Man," "Belly-Stabbed-Man," "Stuffed-in-the-Drum-Man" and "Finger-Pointing-Man" are true tributes to what once was. They are clearly inspired by Watt's, Boon's and Hurley's musical antics from the 1980s.
They perfectly illustrate what the Watt and the Minutemen used to do. They are straight to the point, brief and intense. Watt shows that when it comes to the Minutemen, he's still got what it takes to rock his thudstaff (bass guitar).
But songs like "Hollowed-Out-Man, "Head-and-Feet-Only-Man" and "Shield-Shouldered-Man," while following the Minutemen template are something completely different.
"Hollowed-Out-Man" has a more ambient, laid-back feel to it while "Shield-Shouldered-Man" is a 1:20 long hard-rock song in which Watt sings (yells?) over droning, hard repetitive guitar and bass.
In short, it is obvious Mike Watt still has the goods when it comes to punk rock. "Hyphenated-Man" is one of the best records of 2011, and for any avid Minutemen fan, it will be hard to top.
It doesn't hurt that the song "Cherry-Head-Lover-Man" sounds a little like that song James sings to Donna and Maddy in "Twin Peaks"