Release Date: Mar 1, 2011
Record label: Original Recordings Group
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Bassist Mike Watt — a third of Eighties hardcore-punk band the Minutemen, now in the Stooges — calls this album an "opera." He's right. The 30 tracks are blitzkrieg arias, sung and barked as if Watt is playing the shards of his heart and mind after a lifetime in the van ("Finger-Pointing- Man," "Hell-Building- Man"). His new trio reinvigorates the old one's rapid minimalism with the glass-bone guitar and rhythmic vertigo of Captain Beefheart's classic Magic Band.
For an "opera" with not one but two concepts behind it, Hyphenated-Man sounds pretty grounded. That's because both of Mike Watt's overarching ideas lend themselves to short, pithy songs rather than bloated suites or pompous narratives. Watt's guides are the small, detailed characters in the work of 15th century painter Hieronymus Bosch, and the minimal punk of his own pioneering band the Minutemen.
Mike Watt is a guy who thinks a lot about his music; some musicians are content to come up with a dozen or so worthwhile songs, record them, and leave it at that, but each of Watt's solo efforts have been governed by some overriding concept or narrative, and while he's a man who avoids pretension at every turn, each of his albums have been literate, challenging, and imaginative, and 2010's Hyphenated-Man is no exception. Watt's previous two solo efforts, 1997's Contemplating the Engine Room and 2004's The Secondman's Middle Stand were "punk operas" where the songs followed a consistent narrative and thematic line, but Hyphenated-Man instead takes the form of 30 short bursts of music and thought, each reflecting another facet of the overactive mind of the man singing and playing bass. The two longest songs here clock in at just 2:04, and none of the others even crack the two-minute mark.
Here’s the short version: punk-rock bass god Mike Watt has returned. His new album, Hyphenated-Man, features 30 songs, only two of which are longer than two minutes. He recorded it with his power trio, the Missingmen, so it sounds more like the Minutemen than anything he’s done since 1985. Watt has drawn inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch’s 15th-century triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.