album reviews

Mike Watt
ORG Music (2011)

Kindred spirits: the Minutemen, Sonic Youth, the Meat Puppets

Bassist Mike Watt hasn't slowed down since the dissolution of his seminal punk band the Minutemen in 1985. He has had numerous other musical projects, toured with the Stooges, recorded with pop stars and sporadically released solo albums.

On "Hyphenated-Man," Watt's latest solo effort (and first since 2004), he powers through 30 songs in just over 47 minutes. These sonic bursts are instantly reminiscent of the rapid-fire songs on the 1984 Minutemen classic "Double Nickels on the Dime." But like his other "punk opera" solo albums, these songs share a concept: Their characters are inspired by 16th-century painter Hieronymus Bosch — "Arrow-Pierced-Egg-Man," "Own-Horn-Blowing-Man," "Boot-Wearing-Fish-Man" and so on.

Despite the songs' brevity and sometimes nonsensical titles, the album doesn't feel disjointed or choppy. Watt's songs create a narrative that fluctuates from his high-energy bass playing and yelps ("Hell-Building-Man") to slower numbers with low, husky vocal melodies ("Jug-Footed-Man"). Watt is joined by guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales, but it's his ranting that takes the spotlight. On "Hammering-Castle-Bird-Man," he howls, "You've met the enemy / Guess who? It's you!" with a fervor that shows no sign of softening.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 25 March 2011
.: Hyphented-Man on