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Mike Watt – Hyphenated Man

April 15th, 2011 No comments

Mike Watt – “hyphenated man” (4 Stars out of 5)

‘Double Nickels on the Dime” is the legendary album by the punk trio, The Minutemen. A blistering 45 tracks that span 2 LPs, most of the tracks are less than 2 minutes . . .(insert joke here).  It typically makes most best of lists rather you want to discuss albums from the 80’s, punk records, .etc., and the Minutemen might have been onto something amazing had it not been for their lead singer D. Boon to tragically die in a crash in 1985.

Mike Watt, the bassist for the Minutmen has reconstructed an album that has that same feel of the Minutemen’s work. Here he constructs a 30 song album with every song less than 2 minutes. The songs are not just a set of random tunes that Watt has collected but rather it’s Watts interpretation of some of the characters in the Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch.

One of the first aspects of looking into this project is having an understanding of Hieronymus Bosch’s work. While not much is known about Bosch the painter, the works of art has told morality plays. I was lucky enough to view some of these close up and have to say that I wish I was listening to this album while viewing them. That would have been a tripped out sequence to be sure.

If you review the Garden of Earthly Delights, you can see that this one painting has several bylines and or events occurring at the same time.  The Tryptich of paintings presents itself from left to right, heaven to hell. Quite simply we see the peacefulness of the Garden of Eden to the passion-filled Earth sequences filled with carnal desires and forbidden fruits to the fire-breathing hell sequences to the right.

Bosch’s work here is not one painting with one unique idea but one painting with several ideas. By Watt’s own interpretation, it’s his character examination of several of these individuals seen in Bosch’s work dealing with morality.  What makes Bosch’s work intriguing is it’s early surrealistic nature and who better to comment on this but Mike Watt.

Sex, sin, heaven, hell that makes this trip an amusing joyride. Consider the song “blowing-it-out-both-ends-man” where Watt joyfully rants: “blow the flute become the flute there’s no sound in flutes! throat veins throbbin’ eyeballs crossin’”, as Watt and company play homage to the likes of Zappa and Captain Beefheart.

In shield-shouldered man, he fires off the words as if he is having a seizure in the corner as Tom Watson on guitar and Raul Morales drive it home.

The music on “hyphenated man” is quick and Minutemanesque at its finest. My understanding is that Watt went back and listened to the Minutemen for the first time in  a long while before writing this, and used D. Boon’s Telecaster so there is that element here.

What is very obvious from the works of Bosch as a moralizer is that Watt is doing the exact same thing, seeing their images and writing his own commentary. For me the key however would be standing beside Watt as he is making these observations.

Even though it was released last year in Japan and more recently in the states, its’ almost post-modern look at art criticism through an individual responsible for making music in the same vein is compelling. What seemed like a harmful first listen has inexplicably been on repeat as Mike Watt becomes an art history major and an enjoyable fun one at that.

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