Contemplating the Engine Room

CD Cover Mike Watt

Review by Darren Kerr

I just finished reading a review of this CD in one of the many fanzines that flow through this city. In it, some ever-so-indie rock guy who probably takes a daily Minutemen high colonic proclaims piously that Mike Watt's career is over with this album. Fuck off, milk boy! This concept album about navy work, boilermen and hometowns is a fully-realized piece of work!

Songs are sparse outlines carved with an old rusty knife, given depth and colour by Watt's unique gruff delivery and swaggering staggering deep bass funk. There is a lot of the off-kilter, limbs akimbo rhythm stew that made the Minutemen such a seminal influential bad. Nels Cline, on loan from the Geraldine Fibbers, is fast becoming one of my favourite guitar champions, and here he spreads free jazz, Latin power conga, medieval arpeggio, distorto Reeves Gabrels type whack shit -- the whole trick bag -- liberally over everything. Tracks like "The Boilerman," "Topsiders," "Liberty Calls" and "Shore Duty," to name a few, are excellent examples of controlled chaos, kept in line by Stephen Hodges' telepathic percussion.

Watt is making music every bit as relevant as the Minutemen or firehose, and I, for one, think that the late D. Boone is looking down proudly at San Pedro's favourite son.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 28, 1997

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