Mike Watt is sort of a Los Angeles musical legend. No, he hasn’t been any on-call guy for the many pop recording sessions that take place in this town. Instead, he is beloved by locals for his eternal coolness. He co-founded the Minutemen with D.Boon, where he held high the punk rock torch throughout much of the ‘80s. He could have easily faded into obscurity in 1985 when D.Boon died tragically in an auto accident. Yet, much as Dave Grohl did during his post-Nirvana years, Watt’s good reputation continued to spread wider with each passing year after D.Boon’s sudden demise.
He formed the post-Minutemen band fiREHOSE shortly thereafter and later appeared in Banyan. Furthermore, he also performed with J Mascis and the Fog, The Stooges and Porno for Pyros. That’s not bad for a punk rocker from San Pedro, CA.
This brings us to Hyphenated-Man, Watt’s new solo album. The disc is comprised of an astounding 30 tracks, each usually less than two-minutes long. This brevity reveals that the lessons he learned with Minutemen have not been forgotten. Stylistically, the music ranges from the clipped, stop-and-start rock of “Own-Horn-Blowing-Man” to the white guy funk of “Finger-Pointing-Man.”
The album derives its title partially from the fact that every song title is hyphenated, and each one is the name of a kind of man. This ‘Watt on Me’ project is not always complimentary of the male sex. Do you know anyone that would want to be called “Mouse-Headed-Man”? What self-respecting guy ever wants to end up as “Belly-Stabbed-Man”?
Perhaps all this hyphenation is there to highlight what a fragmented society we live in. We’re not just split personalities; more often than not, we’re splintered, shattered personalities. In addition, the more divided we are as personalities the easier we are conquered. All 30 of the male types Watt has chosen to describe are right here — in pieces.
Our short for time, abbreviated culture might lead you to believe there are only two basic types of men. There are the big, strong tough guys. These are the men at the gym every day, buzzed on energy drinks and psyched over everything military and gun-related. Then there are the nerdy, wimp guys. These ones live by brains rather than brawn. They realize that computers are more than mere Facebook devices. Of course, we all know these are just two of the many stereotypes. Watt knows male-ness is even more complicated than that. His 30 examples give us about a minute’s worth biography each. Yet he could have given us many, many more examples, and even longer explanations. However, this is a hyphenated overview.
With this ambitious new work, Mike Watt proves to be a real man’s man.