1995, Music

Ball-Hog or Tugboat? (1995) by Mike Watt

What do I do with this sprawling, all-star record? It’s as if Watt wanted to make a new Minuteman record with 17 different bands. The results are, uneven, to say the least.

I have a particularly nit I like to pick about all-star records. I don’t know where it came from but it’s there and I have trouble getting over it, unless something else about the record wins me over. It has something to do with the use of different singers because I am often – but not always – more won-over by all-star records where the singer is always the same and it’s the musicians who change. Here everything changes from the track to track and I have to constantly look at the credits to see who’s doing what. So I recognize Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Mark Lanegan but don’t necessarily recognize anyone else. (Kathleen Hanna, too, of course, on the album’s most infamous moment.)

Watt is an inconsistent songwriter and it’s true here as it ever was. He’s just very, very quirky and sometimes that works for me and sometimes it doesn’t. The issue is that the inconsistent songs are performed in inconsistent ways and I have a hard time enjoying the record.

It is also very, very long, which makes it harder to love, because not only is it hit and miss, it goes on forever. It’s easy to imagine an edited-down version of this album being a lot more appealing to me. (I can also imagine being frustrated by it, depending what was cut out.)

I still like Watt, and many of the people involved, and many moments throughout the album. But the record lacks the distinct vibe of The Secondman’s Middle Stand, for example, which helps elevate Watt’s material to something better.

I have to think this is for hardcore Watt fans only. (And those desperate to hear everything their favourite performer’s ever done, given the sheer number of guest appearances (50 or so different musicians, most of them at least a little bit famous).


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