Mike Watt: Ball-Hog or Tugboat?

If you’re ever playing ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ with US postpunk, Mike Watt is your Kevin Bacon. He’s the great big knot in the Pete Frame’s afore-and-after-grunge Rock Family Tree. He is of course, Watt from Minutemen and fIREHOSE, and now a Stooge, but in 1995 he released a record that underlined his influence on US ‘alt’ music. Ball-Hog or Tugboat? is Watt’s first solo album, and he asked a few people to help out. Those people include (deep breath): both surviving members of Nirvana, all of Sonic Youth except Kim Gordon (but including Kim and Thurston’s baby Coco Hayley Gordon Moore), Frank Black, Evan Dando, Henry Rollins, the Kirkwood brothers from the Meat Puppets, J Mascis, Mark Lanegan, Epic Soundtracks from Swell Maps, Eddie Vedder, Flea, Dave Pirner, and two of the Beastie Boys. He even persuaded Bernie Worrell from Parliament and Funkadelic to accompany him and Mascis on a 12-minute version of the latter band’s ‘Maggot Brain’.

While this might seem like an enormous ego-project of back-slapping mates, Watt isn’t like that: he’s the inventor of the jam econo, after all, the DIY no-impact art punk that doesn’t rot your brain. Half of these people knew him when he was just another bit of an SST band, the rest grew up listening to Minutemen records. Watt’s a big wrestling fan and describes the album as a tag-team thing, hence the cover (by longtime friend Raymond Pettibon); it’s also a bit like a testimonial match. In case it all seems a bit cosy ‘Heartbeat’ includes a phonecall from Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill/Julie Ruin/Le Tigre) ticking Watt off for his ‘white rock boy hall of shame’, accusing one of the men on the record of raping her friend when she was 13. She ends the call by asking if he’s going to give her Annie soundtrack back soon, because he’s had it forever.

There are a couple of reworkings of Minutemen songs, a cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Tuff Gnarl’ (which reminds you Watt was involved in Ciccone Youth) and lots of great Watt originals. My picks for now are that SY cover, with the Youth plus Carla Bozulich and J Mascis and others; and a song which is about a truck-driving man, maybe Watt Sr.,… the chorus is almost as much fun to sing along with as the chorus of Frank Black’s ‘Kiss My Ring’. Vocals by Evan Dando. Enjoy.

Tuff Gnarl‘ – Mike Watt – Ball-Hog or Tugboat?

Piss-Bottle Man‘ – Mike Watt – Ball-Hog or Tugboat?

Buy already enjoyed here or in your favourite record shop. Watt’s Hoot Page here.



About jkneale

BothBarsOn's London correspondent.

Posted on October 10, 2008, in Album reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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