POPEYE WATT: MORE ENDEARING THAN YOSEMITE SAM WATT?
the hyphenated-man album was 30 parts comprising ONE song- it flowed much like a minutemen gig;live and on record the parts meshed seamlessly, with nary a pause... tightly structured in each passage/piece... the spielgusher album - released about a year ago- featured 14 or so instrumentals on their own, seemingly as palate cleansers and all the music framed with/around richard meltzer's spoken word/spiels similar to mike watt's outrageously brief barrage of songs that flew by incredibly fast with the minutemen; that's who several of meltzer's pieces were intended for when written in 1985 (this record fires 61 songs/parts at the listener in 66 minutes) but sonically, the staccato bursts were bolstered by tiny/soft explosions of guitar-runs/riffs/picking quite smoothly courtesy of the virtuosity of mr. shimmy along with the wondrous & whimsical drumming/percussion by ms. yuko; and of course the fluid basslines of watt... it's not hard to imagine d.boon singing "scissors" or "meetcha" - the return to the short-form of watt's early beat-poet/beaned out/agitated manner of spewing of lyrics was impressive/effective on hyphenated-man... the gentler spoken word pieces on hyphenated were stronger yet; certainly the best combo of watt's voice/prose to date (2010), spielgusher demonstrated instrumental evolution framed by a tad more complex/varied musical expressions and married with meltzer's many life - after age 50 topics, hinting at a break from the old blueprint ; exhibiting a more lush/vibrant/and sophisticated musicality...
kicking off 2013 this new trio is named "il sogno del marinaio" (the sailor's dream) mr. watt collaborating with two italianos in a style/manner that is pert near all-about the sound painting the picture instead of bursted lyrics; the LP is primarily a wordless oceanic journey... delightfully, "La Busta Gialla" offers sonic unchartered trips via smooth/choppy/dreamy immersions in salt water- with flavorings that will not be mistaken for americana. while hyphenated-man was a wonderfulrollicking roller-coaster/house of mirrors/propelling the listener @ warp speed thru inner/outer space and back quicker than an e-ticket ride... "La Busta Gialla" unfurls at a much more leisurely pace; a couple numbers flow swiftly like a catamaran - other tunes calmer while imbueing the sensation of floating & bobbing both hypnotically/pensively in and across the ocean - peaceful and joyous voyages distorted/juxtaposed with a few choppy excursions into/thru maelstroms of naval nightmares and clashes with that enemy that lurks within man's perplexed/conflicted mind... i have no clue if clenchedwrench will issue the album on vinyl; regardless, it has the feel of an album you have to stand up and flip over at the halfway mark - containing a strong narrative that flows more like an opera or sound-only film (were there such a thing), consistent from start to finish - is the physical feeling that you are really aboard a boat/ship, traversing the mediterranean sea with the band on deck besides you and acting as your guide and also serving the function as the engines/sails that tug the listener on this journey... the crisp sequencing of the songs are a critical component here; they skipper you from the harbor and return you to the dock in 41 minutes... if nothing else, the process and logical/seamless flow, make this mr. watt's most cohesive album in his 33 plus year career. believe me, anyone deploying shuffle mode with this record album will negate its full power; entrust the creators/collaborators know best when & where to pilot you - just like a great film director. each of the 100 plus listenings/journeys this reporter has logged with this album, have created the urge to get up and flip the record over to side 2 after "funanori jig" - 'tis a shame not everyone could have experienced the physical sensation of getting up after 8 minutes or 13 minutes to flip the minutemen records "the punch line" and "what makes a man start fires?" to side 2 when they were originally issued; it forced you closer to being a participant in the proceedings...in their day, there was no alternative option. the records evoked a more vibrant punch on the $600 denon turntable with the yamaha amp and custom made speakers... if i had a 180 gram vinyl copy of "La Busta Gialla" - i would brave the cold and crank it up in my basement loud enough to chase off the coyotes right now!
the songs of side one:
"Cinema of the Oars"
ZOOM-- stefano pilia & andrea belfi have a solid background in/with experimental music and their italiano roots pop out immediately to begin the record; along with watt's cascading intro bass line, the listener is welcomed aboard courtesy of andrea's wordless voicings in thema #1 for 75 seconds or so. this thema seems to harken memories bridging the quirkiness of nina rota/ennio morricone filmscores with "lolita ya ya" voicings and foreshadow a very cinematic sense of purpose right into fellini-land... thema #2 - pulling away from the dock - it almost feels & clangs more like a train and announces their proclivity/mastery of distortion/droning captained by watt's rollicking bass as engine; it's clear your gonna feel somewhere in this record that you are crossing the english channel in a wintry storm...the intoxicating VU vibe is going to pop you right into thema # 3 by the 3:42 mark... one's sense of time is annihlated in less than four minutes...
thema #3 introduces a harmonica into the mike watt sonic library - for about 10 seconds (who could ever picture that!) it won't take long to ascertain that this does not sound like any other mike watt record... gently, they loop us back to the initial thema - then to reveal more details of what this intoxicating overture & entire album is all about.
the band commences flexing their immense musical muscles/chops - foreshadowing some moods/struggles that are to follow as thema # 4 hints more specifically at what that is; an airtight rhythm section & what seems like the sound of a theremin assures you there will be psychedelic shadings in this sonic painting/tone poem/oceanic excursion... one helluva 41 minute ride has commenced with sonic ear candy that it seems as though you can even see (sea?) and feel the salty ocean spray hit your face... some solid mike watt bottom end rumblings on the bass jump out at you; reminds me of john entwhistle or jack cassady-jeez the final 2 minutes of this seeminly channel jorma kaukonen & and same jack cassady of jefferson airplane/hot tuna sending you downwards to deal with the mad hatter circa "after bathing @ baxter's" -a pleasing, psychedelic way to punctuate this overture...
"zoom" as opener/is a mini-opera/film score clocking in at about 8 1/2 (fellini!) minutes - it seems any serious filmmaker would want to hire the Il Sogno del Marinaio band to score their film; mr. watt calls these records "projects" but - this is a band in every sense of the word; this trio bands together/meshes/collaborates/composes/and gels like the john coltrane quartet... the seven additional italian musicians who play on four of the next six songs dovetail nicely, enriching the overall texture/tenor and seafaring narrative, fleshing out the sound while helping to weave a sonic tapestry/landscape that splashes some "technicolor" onto the canvass...
Buongiorno and ahoy matey!
"Italian resistance" or "in the service of the bourgeoisie"
PARTISAN SONG-- the sinister droning/clanging that commences track 2 really grabbed me on first listen...it reminds me of the lock banging against a tall flagpole at my first job back in our bicentennial. among my assorted duties as "nightwatchman" was to taking down the american flag that hung about 30 feet high in front of a granite company building surrounded by rock quarrys...why the lock? obviously, cold war paranoia still loomed largely in the east san gabriel valley...hey, i understood having a flag fly in front of my schools growing up-but this seemed an incongrous place for this droning metal on metal.. was someone really gonna steal the flag?? the clanging was a disturbing harbinger of weird things that would unfold inside the building... i soon found out the prior two nightwatchmen had heart attacks (one died) on the job site and the late night watchman was a shellshocked vietnam vet who really seemed spooked ... and not just from his war nightmares but this building/grounds ..my hours were only 5-9 pm; just one time - they had me pull an overnighter from dusk 'til dawn and i soon believed the stories that this awful place really had violated/disturbed indian burial grounds... absolutely the scariest night of my life-wow- the things i felt and heard were horrific; this clanging that kicks-off song number two here resonates , initiating a similarly eerie mood.
my hunch is that "partisan song" is about the italian resistance to the fascists; freedom always involves a fight/struggle...(that includes the flag- hoisting/jingoists/john birchers that were sprinkled in big numbers within a mile or two of this clanging lock on the flagpole at work) after about 20 seconds, the dark clanging stops and we are ushered into a marching band tune on a naval vessel that slices proudly thru the ocean with bravado - replete with a tenor sax/alto sax/and trumpet - a great addition to the core trio... hard to believe all but one of these songs were recorded in 1-3 takes! by the time the clanging returns about halfway, the bass player has seemingly wrassled the partisans thru the dischord, triumphantly towards victory. anyone who ever enjoyed sonic youth, will be loving the guitar playing of stefano pilia on song # 2... for me, in 3 minutes i am already hearing/feeling some of my favorite aspects of joe baiza's saccharine trust/universal congress of/mecolodiacs ...along with arthur lee & love's "forever changes" LP .
by now, we have sailed well beyond the point where land is no longer visible... mr. watt seemingly abandoned writing overtly politico songs after the minutemen (methinks he just liked watching d. boon turn his beat-poet/seemingly benzedrine fueled/staccato burts-shoutings/agitated young-man paranoid rantings into something way bigger than real life). "partisan song" is compositionally credited to mr. pilia, no doubt conducted by mr. watt - appearing to indicate that via maturity and more life experiences, just the title of a song such as this- can provoke the listener sans the words, to be inspired by the narrative/back story of this record and be auto-didactic and seek out/study some history first-hand...okay, maybe that's my personal excuse/reason for adding at least two more weeks delay to this essay- just sayin'...
"the aplomb of the beaten is not always complacency" (i have no idea where i appropriated this quote from-it seems to fit).
"Carol Merrill or Door Number Three?"
TIGER PRINCESS-- time for mike watt's only vocal/spoken word spiel on this boat trip. last time the two of us spoke- i went on about how much i love it when the meat puppets blast off into an extended jam/improv- this was almost at the end of the hyphenated-man tour in november... watt asked, "so you like longer songs?" it's not that cut & dried; i have often maintained that more happens in a 3 minute version of (forever)" one reporter's opinion" live than in most 12 minute songs... however, i have never heard anyone who really digs john coltrane whine about how his songs being too long! the intro to this song is almost longer than any of the 30 parts that comprise the "hyphenated-man" LP aka "3rd Opera"... i doubt any intense aficionado of mike watt's bass playing is gonna have a gripe about this intro with his bass on the lead; this is where the album really congeals, ensuring rapt attention by the listener most likely to play this album repeatedly...
if you have ever read any of the watt's tour diaries, this sure sounds like a re-curring dream/nightmare of said bass player... this style of speaking/singing best suits mr. watt's vocals; the unhurried unfurling/slowed to a crawl pace/and precise phrasing facilitates this sailor song's story to be savored/comprehended; that leaves space for this band to really interwine around the thema driven by the great basslines...just because joyce's "ulysses" takes place in the same day, does not mandate it must be read at neal cassady warp-speed; giving this song a little time allows the song to open and blossom for maximum effect. old man punk deployed this satchmo/meets tom waits/deep in the belly of the whale/wisely, with powerful effect on some parts of "hyphenated-man" (does it make any sense that a dosed jimminy cricket lurks i deep inside the belly of the whale too?) - three in a row: "cherry-head-lover-man"/"pinned-to-the-table-man"/"mouse-headed-man" flirted with this style; "bell-rung-man" is the best example of this carefully measured/deliberate/meticulously- phrased way of allowing the words to ebb/flow in a manner that borders on hypnotic...
song # 3 - "the tiger princess" - clocking in at just over 5 minutes, really seeps into one's skin, not unlike some trippy old uncle telling a kid a story at bedtime that won't make any sense for another 30 or 40 years ; it's more likely to spawn a series of creepy nightmares for a child... some not-so young, might ponder this for quite a bit longer than five minutes; the song is one you will either be riveted by or want to skip altogether... the final line/epilogue is only one that mike watt could deliver live with a poker face- he had plenty of practice performing "hyphenated-man" quiet passages in front of a few obnoxious borrachos (redundant) for well over 100 different nights ("jumping on tears ") i'm not gonna wreck the punchline here; some jerk in college ruined the ending of the film "chinatown" that way for me; had i owned the 38 oz. Dick Allen baseball bat at the time-it feels like a telephone pole in one's hands - he might have been unable to walk for a week or two-figuratively speaking.
"Royal Caribbean Cruise Song" (oops, they used an iggy song for that one)
FUNANORI JIG-- the closer on side one of this LP, catapults the listener quickly away from any residual effects from the prior song... what company will be first to try and buy this very catchy, dare i say "pretty" with sugar & spice song from mr. watt for a cheesy advertisement? okay, adults will want to hope they are honored to have mr. watt make one of his "big pour" cocktails; it ain't gonna be jim beam though. Nope - too bad kid. This a rumrunner all the way... It's really not that cutesy.
How about a palate cleanser??
Not to worry; when you flip your imaginary 180 gram vinyl to side two , the skies will darken quickly into ian curtis shades of black and white... seriously, this is a great song; chockfull of lovely harmonics and the swift time changes that have hallmarked watt's songs from all the way back to 1980. if any tune on here replicates the sensation of sailing swiftly on the open sea (mediterranean or carribean as the drummer so accurately puts it) this is it. pure joy. feels like a catamaran with a strong wind behind it and you have your face as close to possibly being in the sea- sporting the biggest grin, on the happiest day of your entire life. all's well that ends well; a shakespearean jig with precisely the same purpose .
say goodbye to side one; supremely enjoyable with only one song that actually has words - yippee!
if you have ever been fortunate enough to witness the missingmen open their "covers" set with "surfin' with the shah" by the urinals, you might agree that mike watt could make phenomenal records sans words; "La Busta Gialla" might be as close as your gonna get to that on "clenched wrench" for many years..
half-time break : lively up yourself, maybe catch a fire/grab a beverage and imagine flipping the vinyl on your turntable, cue and lower the tone arm...
way back in late 1983, i could hardly contain my excitement/need to pogo when i first spun/heard "the product " on side 2 of "buzz or howl under the influence of heat" 12 inch 45 RPM vinyl... george hurley's speedy blitkrieg/vicious "keith moon-like" seemingly felonious/flat-out violent attack on his drum kit drums set the table for additional contributor crane to catapult me towards the ceiling at the 1:21 mark, when the shocking sound of a trumpet blaring like a fired-up 5th grader (that's when i was playing the trumpet) popped out of the fray - it pert near cold-cocked me... when d. boon punctuated this intoxicating rant hollering like a rabid ferret:
"THE PRODUCT OF... CAPITALISM!!!"
i knew instantly that my life was forever changed; my best friend Fritz, had been tryin' for quite some time-to get me to check these guys out... punk rock could have horns & have a shrill clarinet in there - and this record cost them $50 to make??? 1st listen to "little man with a gun in his hand" completely won me over - hook/line/sinker - game over. i had to go see this band live and what better place than beyond baroque in venice, ca - a site where beat- poets in the '50's, truly challenged peoples comfort levels... during the warm-up band's set these two rather dorky looking/loud-mouthed patrons in the audience politely offered me some smoke; as the chubbier made the handoff - i said to myself "what are these polite, although noisy dudes doing at this punk gig??" - keep in mind that an all-female noise band was close to blowing out my eardrums, even before these minutemen got a chance to play... ahh, thanks- that took the edge off...less than 30 minutes later- i almost fainted when i discovered that these two "fans" were d. boon and mike watt!!! the next day i went to poobah's records in pasadena and bought every piece of vinyl they had stocked - it was even in its own separated/alphabetized category as if they were some hugely popular band... the minutemen as i spun this tune "the product" while typing here - for the first time i noticed that mike watt's simple/repetitive bass line laid the foundation for the mayhem of "the product"... if for some reason you think it's a dumb/boring/rumbling bassline - sayonara by the time we arrive at "messed-up machine" here on side two. should you think it's easy to play a pre-ordained/repetitive bass line check out what watt's ex-wife kira and outstanding bass player has to say about her experiences sticking with words etched in stone/prescribed basslines during her tenure with black flag: "you will play what i tell you to play..."
the point? (or is it product here??)
much to my surprise - the "buzz or howl..." EP by the minutemen did not generate the same enthusiasm/appreciation with most of my friends/contemporaries; nearly everyone scurried like rats on a sinking ship to avoid anything that came out on sst records in 1983 (did you know that metallica's 1st LP "kill 'em all" was released by sst?) believe it or not - not even the r.e.m. records that i liked in the early '80's when the singer mumbled all the words did not go over well initially with the masses: namely the great first EP "Chronic Town," along with the first LP, "Murmur" which was released not too long before "Buzz or Howl..." the single "radio free europe" was one of the early indie songs to be played on alternative stations, such as KROQ in my hometown of pasadena, ca - which by then had become a top-40 station for horrid bubble-gum "new- wave" bands such as : the fixx/flock of seagulls ad nauseum. any record after "fables of the reconstruction" was not bought by your tour guide; too many people played the ensuing hit songs way too many times ..they deserve credit for bringing along the minutemen as an opening act in autumn of '85-they even footed the bill when IRS records would only support bands on their label . so, we parted ways; primarily because the venues became too big .. no way was i gonna sit at the back of some hockey arena and with many of the same people who gobbled up the horrid corporate-rock that helped destroy FM radio; that and all the coke-heads running the record labels...
side two of this record might require a more open-minded/adventurous listener: just as all the sst bands did initially. let alone the butthole surfers/the cramps/jesus & mary chain and a zillion other bands before punk broke later on. the other 2/3 of this band (besides mike watt) also have a deep background creating music that demands an open mind, stuff that most people may never be ready for... guitarist/master of creating/manipulating and beautifying varied forms of noise - stefano pilia - along with andrea belfi - drummer/multi-instrumentalist and bearer of the yellow folder/envelope of compositions on the cover of this album - "La Busta Gialla" came into this project with zero attitude/pre-conceptions/airs/we won't try that...
should you want to hear stefano & andrea describe their background/inspiration: they can be heard here on "the watt from pedro show" on December 4, 2009: proffering their perspective/story about meeting mike watt/how this "dream of the sailor" concept came together/and best of all: hear some of their way outside the mainstream style of american music : avant garde/electronic manipulations of many things sonic & creative - contrast dramatically with the tunes/flavorings that sculpt/form "La Busta Gialla"... a key influence for them - The Soft Machine... the first hour of this broadcast is what you might want to investigate and digest; the music that stefano pilia & andrea belfi create on their own is not easy to pigeonhole into some pre-existing rock critic's jargon/slot... this is one of watt's better interviews: decent questions with better answers. if nothing else, it's funny to hear mike watt drop american lingo on them that does not register with native italians who speak english quite well but have no context for what "sticking a kid in right field in little league" means...
it's possible that you might find "La Busta Gialla" boring/not up your alley - yet really get into the music of stefano and/or andrea; their influences come thru quite differently, forming a unique hybrid/sonic stew...
the songs of side two:
"the ocean doesn't want me - today"
IL GUARDIANO DEL FARO-- get ready for the centerpiece of the album; if this does not captivate you - cut your losses now - nobody is going to suggest this record is for the masses... this song was originally co-written by sam dook of the "go! team" band from brighton, england for a project he & watt have called cuz.
here is where mike watt makes a critical & sound decision; one that won't seem that way for many listeners for the reasons harped on previously... instead of doing this song in english as written by watt; a more artsy/sublimely esoteric/approach is taken that sets the tone for side two and breaks new ground in the mike watt musical cannon... bravo for having cojones and transposing the lyrics into italian rather than opt for a more literal/straight-forward mike watt delivers the words of a song he wrote called "the lighthouse keeper" and instead we have... andrea belfi delivering a solemn narrator's spoken word recitation in italian; befitting the aftermath of the shipwreck, almost like pondering writing your own wake - even before the inevitability of death pirates your life away. watt's right up front bass rumblings/chords/front and center as lead instrument - set the table for stefano & andrea to fully demonstrate that they too have powerful skills compositionally... who could even ponder the notion that some musicians are so gifted and manipulating sounds/textures that what you hear might fool you into thinking that instead - you are watching a film in kaleidoscopic 3-D??!!
a pace slower than trying to elude someone in a nightmare but at best you can barely move in super slow-motion... mimics the marooned narrator's body bobbing up/down with belly facing the ocean floor on his raft - hovering after the shipwreck; within range of the lighthouse - yet in reality it may as well be further out than the 25 miles Catalina Island stands removed from the California shoreline... consistently on every track comprising this album - stefano and andrea display their ability to frame a picture sonically; they react to watt's bass with shadings/nuances not dissimilar to the experimental/electronic records they have made on their own. when they perform this live, there is room for improvisation to tweak the timing/unfolding a stunning tapestry and theatre of the mind - floating on a raft as hopelessly as if lying nude in the mojave desert in august with no food/water and expecting a happy ending... no point in displaying/translating the words here; undoubtedly, someone else already has - depriving the listener the chance to take their own shot at decoding what is happening strictly via imagination. must the teacher spell it out on the chalkboard in BOLD CAPS? methinks not...
this tone poem has been blaring throughout my life for 1 1/2 years-when mr. watt sent the album to me... 3 weeks ago, i finally asked if he had the lyrics. it was more fun imagining what happens here - with only my febrile curiousity filling up the movie screen- this theatre of the mind. i had no clue there were notated descriptions of this entire album up on the website until the 5th of January... being land-locked here in the land of enchantment @ 6,000 feet- most of the spinnings of this record were done while soaking my messed-up neck and body in the bathtub... what's seen as weird to many people, can appear to be as common-sense oriented as the way a dog's brain works... you be the decider...
JOYFUZZ-- shortly after the ship noises/seagulls fade away along with andrea belfi's background voice expressing the quite- likely/short-lived reprieve during the final 2 minutes of the prior nightmare - floating/bobbing with seagulls and perhaps the shoreline cruelly within hearing range but maybe as unreachable as the chocolate being made in a factory across the way from the former alcatraz prison was for the prisoners housed-there...with proper wind currents, housed in their death-cells, the wondrous scent of chocolate would waft into/thru their living space....never to be eaten, only imagined... okay- the tortuous track 1 is finito... onward mateys!!
your narrator's personal favorite song on this LP, beautifully spirits the fog away and rolls out yet another sonic poem/filmscore/painting that gracefully glides across a becalmed ocean- with an intro that splashes for the first half of the number... andrea starts singing in english! that's in addition to playing the drums/piano/glockenspeil;in this song we get the fullest sound/biggest band - a tenor sax and alto sax pop in/out and close out the song ever so gracefully/tastefully.... stefano's guitar wafts shards of very gentle noise in/out and shadings chockfull of delicious fuzz ... in a very tasty solo; then back to sound that feels like sunrays drifting in and out. the first time i heard this eons ago - i recall sending watt an email congratulating him on finally injecting flavourings of the john coltrane quartet into his music... per always - no reply (where are the manners?)! of course, nobody else on the planet will agree with this opinion... andrea belfi seemingly pops a pinch of mccoy tyner around the minute mark fostering a playful mood- then makes it feel like elvin jones grabbed his drumsticks (others surely will hear it as ginger baker)... who cares?
"Dreams Are Free, Motherfucker!" (Boon/Watt/Hurley/Crane)
perhaps, we can argue about who is buzzing/who is howling? (possibly me & and a coyote as snowflakes dance outside-softly like elvin jones with brushes...)
"throw another log on the fire, you know my habits" - philip clark, 1979
the bass player installs a handy keel to our sailing boat, assuring a smooth ride ; at other points sublimely spinning silky, sinuous lines that make us feel porpoise-like as we frolic forward in a playful, serpentine manner... think john coltrane weaving soft figure-eights around duke ellington's tinkling piano work on "in a sentimental mood". back in the days where you often had no other option but to buy a vinyl, long-playing album - just to own that singular magical track- one would happily say...
"this was worth the price of the entire album!"
not sure i've ever heard so many different elements all mesh together in three minutes...
"Too much bravado can be perilous"
MESSED-UP MACHINE-- forget about savoring the prior song; within 15 seconds it's painfully obvious what's happening here track 3/side 2... the funtime had with "joyfuzz" already feels further away than the millenium before you can cross your leg/fold your arms in a defensive posture; this song spits you straight into the oceanic equivalent of quicksand... pretty much unleashes childhood memories - way back to that first time happiness did an abrupt about face into dante's inferno: immediately after spying that brand spanking new/first bicycle shimmering in front of the Xmas tree, right after your 6th birthday - you know the dealio...
you jump with a joy like never before - (only one alotted per/lifetime) a nanosecond after your p.f. flyers kiss the ground... some 'pathetic excuse for a human being' (if they had a heart-it was made out of boogers) just couldn't wait another tick of the clock to tell you - "there is NO santa claus" does it matter what they look like? to stick with a musical reference-let's pretend this time he's johnny thunders-replete with a marlboro dangling out of his mouth (just like rock bottom's cigar from felix the cat)... "too frickin' bad kid...most of your life you're gonna be thinkin' to yerself... "I'M SO ALL ALONE/I'M SO ALONE" yep, good old johnny genzale from Queens - a real heartbreaker - how come i don't even get a painkiller in the form of an opium/soaked guitar solo from waldo?
in 2013, the bearer of bad news happens to be "il Vecchio Giallo" aka old man punk - the grumpy smokey the bear version of - michael david watt... once again, the italiano fratelli follow the incessant bass lead of watt; right into a vortex where we have no RPM'S- the outboard motor is flooded every way possible, and those "funanori jig" blustery winds went bye-bye. dead calm - might as well torch the sail too... in mike watt's very own words from the tour diary (november 27, 2009):
"I have them improvise over the fucked-up robot riff and then we unite in unison for the choruses...... good breather, gives the set some space."
(in this case, watt is referring to the initial live performance of "messed-up-machine" that took place in Sesena, Italy) the machine/boat/ whatever you deem it to be - keeps trying to tear itself apart for what feels like about 3 days compared to the prior 3 minute dream-vacation/blissful-masterpiece - "joyfuzz" - stefano & andrea shadow this bassline - splash and deploy every shimmering/sonic/magical bit of ear candy/mood enhancer in their arsenal behind/over under sideways down/behind a loopy bass guitar that sounds like you have a major skip/sticky spot on your vinyl- oh man, i don't wanna get up and lift the needle - until... the machine works again! here is mike watt's description of how it went down in the actual recording studio, on december 2, 2009:
"w/two takes having me too up tight and not "messed-up" enough - I want to be passive enough to let stefano and andrea have an improvised dialog w/each other. the third take has it but there's a 'puter crash and five seconds in the middle are lost. only equipment malfunction of the entire session - like I said, this is a very good pad... anyway, I'm glad we get another shot cuz I wanna play even more "messed-up" in way - yep, take four and we got it."
GEEZ - HOW IRONIC: THE MACHINE (COMPUTER) ACTUALLY CRASHES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 3RD TAKE... PLEASE STOP THE AGONY NOW!!
this reporter's opinion: said song will be considered fascinating by some/excruciatingly boring filler that should have been shortened by 5 minutes or scissored altogether by others/and some will react with detached/depraved indifference... seemingly, the listener's subjective reaction will be based upon the personal history of memories/emotions it triggers from one's unique real-life experiences... personally, i might enjoy "messed-up-machine" better performed live, where this talented trio would hopefully take it to many different places and the fratelli could scatter their countless electronic noises & harmonic shards of sound all across the universe; this tune (?) is their best chance to hone/expand/and most of all - jump out of the comfort zone (not thinkin' at this point they worry about such americano things as outside the box and all that crap), once more we have the fratelli displaying their improvisational skills...maybe this mike watt character blind-folded them/spun them continously swiftly on a merry-go-round and forced them to listen to this bassline for a day or two?
the studio version here on "La Busta Gialla" triggers memories of husker du's 13 minute version of "reoccurring dreams" from "zen arcade" - now HUSKER DU was the band that made it worth the risk of going deaf - to... just because they could make it feel good before the rest-of-your life tinnitus came on after them!!! though this is nowhere nearly as enjoyable... can't they scissor about 4 minutes and let the "joyfuzz" vibe have that chunk of the clock? no fun... the initial emotional feeling it induced in me was extremely unpleasant in the summertime... a reminder of an awful day last summer when my radiator burst a leak and i was 25 miles from home in the sliver of cool morning air; rather than pay a hefty towing fee, i elected to right the ship like they do here... amazingly, i eventually made it home - after 3 separate breakdowns on the interstate highway and a 4 hour time span in 95 degree heat...major thanks to a member of the sandia indian tribe, who deserves 100% credit for giving me at least a chance to successfully traverse the final 10 miles. this personifies what a real-life hellride/battle of man vs. machine is all about; you can have it! just 7 minutes ago, i was having a real cool time... (ed. note - on a painfully cold wintry day with windchill dipping near zero...this actually feels/sounds fantastic-this might remain on repeat mode until my garage doesn't double as a refrigerator/cold storage facility).
PUNKINHED AHOY!-- hokey smokey bullwinkle - do i see land again? or is that the fratelli playing around with those soundscape/electonic effects/noises and stefano slaying me with the sensations pulling the bow and sawing back and forth on his guitar making me think i see what i really am hearing??? i forbid you to make me think there's a creepy lightning storm when there ain't a cloud in the sky- just you messin' around with that axe again... what do you have against us Yanks? come on mr. thunderbroom/big bassman - we are in serious need of some shore leave; guide us back to the mainland before i chug the rubbing alcohol, grab a steel spike and bid the mean old sea & world goodbye... what if this machine gets all messed up again?
you better atone for getting borracho and damned near allowing us to vanish into that bermuda triangle!
YES - that must be a james jamerson vintage motown bassline setting us on a beeline towards home! i trip on stefano & andrea , seemingly just to see how they react ; all's well that ends well, right? thanks for harmonizing with yourself andrea; that sure feels/sounds better than old man punk's overly-amplified foghorn!!! then again, i do not recall hearing anyone spank the bass better than that since that last time i saw/heard the ox @ the wiltern with pete townshend back in 1994 or somewhere around that time... i was so very wrong; stefano & andrea can play american music as well/or better than any damned yankees after-all ... when were you in new orleans? this rollicking romp has such a nice meter; way to throw in a smokin' solo mr. pilia!! as for the drumming - how did the worse drummer who ever played with mike watt sound? AMAZING!!!
we're @ the dock already? "il Vecchio Giallo" bellows deafeningly: "DROP ANCHOR!!! "before i could blink, the seagulls fled so quickly- they were already in Bologna...shite-ing on the partisans statues. i guess life is for learning, right?
This is a pretty impressive debut album; that yellow folder of andrea belfi's compositiones ("La Busta Gialla") featured on the cover, purportedly - has another full-length LP's batch of songs for the Il Sogno del Marinaio band to make another film with - err, record inside it... Trying to remember way back to September 2011, when i first heard this record, methinks it did not dazzle/nor alter my life with those first two or three listens; this is not that kind of music... Of course, neither did Funhouse or that first Velvet Undergound LP with the banana on the front... Then again - i do seem to recall that "partisan song"/" funanori jig"/"punkinhed ahoy" did seem pretty darned catchy from the get-go... you might put these on a party mix-tape anywhere and not scare anyone out of the room- the high level of musicianship is pretty difficult to dismiss on these numbers; it seems difficult to fathom anybody making an argument that messers belfi/pilia/watt are not pretty focused/tight/expansive whether or not you even like what they are reaching for... Most likely, few listeners will not bust out into a jig after 2 or 3 plays...there is simply too much to absorb anytime soon - not that need be your fancy... you must be sick by now from hearing me carp 6,756 times that this not for everybody; truth be known its not intended for even 1 per 1000... BFD - was John Coltrane?
All i know is that having played this more times than probably anyone on the planet, "La Busta Gialla" is a deeply- textured/righteous blend of harmonics/that stop and start- whip you to and fro while slicing thru wide open trans-atlantic seascapes/fortified by an airtight rhythm section/and a guitar player who is doing way more than you will pick-up in a few casual spins - it took me at least 50 spins to begin to feel/absorb a fraction of the sublime/sophisticated yet never flashy forms of sound/landscapes- seascapes.... hey, don't waste anyone's time trying to use stale and flat-out errant terminology such as prog rock - first of all that's dead wrong and only proves you had this way in the background so you could multi-task a dozen things at once none of which involve feeling and had an hour or two to meet your deadline with a couple dozen cliches that you so lazily cut & pasted because it might eat into your "texting" time while real life passes you by or tossing words around like cowchips when you might wanna consider actual thoughts/reflections/allowing something substantive to penetrate your being instead of relying on "the cloud" to serve as the safekeeper of everything but that cock in yer pocket - in lieu of your gut/soul/identity...
If this album resembles any other album i really know...that would be "Kind of Blue" which took about 125 spins to begin to comprehend - cemented specifically by a 12 hour drive from los angeles straight thru to the snow in colorado maybe 16 years ago; the just plucked-from-death off the concrete apron that lines Echo Park Lake/pit bull was konked out and so was the wife...me and the border collie who was riding shotgun and serving as co-pilot after the first 3 or 4 hours felt no reason to stop the cassette from automatically flipping sides and decided to let it flow continously until we became the record; or so it seemed... Dogs are all about feeling something; "kind of blue" might have lengthened their lives...that border collie was just shy of 16 years when she went to go checkout what 'trane & miles are up to...the pit-bull? he was smiling up until the final 24 hours of his life; something good must have seeped thru on that drive when death was still a possibility... he was just shy of 14 years old when he checked out shortly before i first spun "La Busta Gialla"...
When the moon became full this past saturday night - i decided to ditch the hundred pages or so of notes and finally started to type this essay live (much to the chagrin of mr. watt)... i have to look at the letters on this keyboard cause i cannot really type otherwise; the spare usage of capitals to fire off a thought lies more in it being too cumbersome-it's not about style... i turned off spell check cause i know how to spell - any 'clams' in that regard are really typos... if this text-edit "pages" on my imac starts slapping red marks - oh hell, you know the story... the messed-up/annoying usage of bold & italics might have added a day to this - why? i grew up reading bobby hilburn & he always pissed people off with that & everything else; so it forced a random kind of focus here and once or twice hopefully really did punctuate one or two points (i hope) besides, punctuation is to be avoided whenever possible; it destroys any flow of thought coming out of this messed-up-machine that once housed a brain...
i got it... belfi/pilia/watt? if their 1st album feels like "Kind Of Blue"after 200 play-throughs (obviously filtered thru fellini/morricone and d.boon) then, this trio reminds me of cannonball adderly/jimmy cobb/and paul chambers... not too shabby for their rookie vinyl outing!!!
lastly... but most importantly: anyone lucky enough to break bread with d.boon - always emerged a better man for life... just ask the bass player-he might be able to muster an example or two... and always be buzzing or howling...