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February 28, 1995
'Ball-Hog' and punk legend Mike Watt returns - A
By Ton Erlewine
Daily Arts Editor
* Mike Watt is a survivor. In some
circles, he's an institution. During the
'80s, he was the bassist in the Minute-
men, one of the most important punk
bands in the American musical under-
ground. Following the deathofguitarist
D. Boon, Watt and the group's drum-
mer, George Hurley, formed
definition ofpunk-loud, simple three-
chord rants about school, work, mastur-
bation and low self esteem. It's hard to
see the connection between the two
scenes unless you look very closely.
"This is what happened when (punk)
went hardcore and it went to young
guys," explained Watt. "You could see
it atthe shows--they wanted the music
to be a background, so they could do
football on each other or smoke ciga-
rettes for the first time. It didn't have a
lot to do with music. Whereas before,
when the scene first started, a lot of
those people weren't even musicians,
they were artists. The ideas were really
important. There was a lot of satire, it
wasn't like one de rigeur way on how to
grow up, which I think might be the
Punk's current tendency of repre-
senting one audience runs against the
very spirit of punk, according to Watt.
"I always thought style was up to the
guy making the music so you could
tell them apart," he said. "In the old
days there was the Minutemen, Husker
Du, Meat Puppets and Black .Flag.
We were all using the exact same
tools - bass, drums and guitar. But if
you copied your brother, that would
be the ultimate insult."
Watt is paid the ultimate tribute on
"Ball-Hog or Tug Boat." Featuring
nearly 50 musicians - including
members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam,
Beastie Boys, Jane's Addiction, Soul
Asylum and Red Hot Chili Peppers,
Evan Dando, Frank Black, Henry
Rollins and Kathleen Hanna from
Bikini Kill - "Ball-Hog or Tug
Boat?" celebrates the diversity of the
original punk and post-punk scenes.
All of the featured artists are con-
nected through ideas, not sound; they
explore different avenues that the
Minutemen - along with Husker Du,
R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Black Flag and
the Meat Puppets -opened up in the
'80s. "In a strange way, (the album)
was like a payback to my scene that's
let me do all these gigs (and) make as
insane music as I could come up with,"
said Watt. "In a way, it was like mak-
ing a Minutemen record."
Originally, Watt was afraid of mak-
ing a solo record; in fact, he still hesi-
tates calling "Ball-Hog" a solo effort.
"With fIREHOSE and with D. Boon I
felt like I could do anything I wanted to
do," he explained. "That's why I don't
like calling this a solo record. It's not
like the long-suppressed voice of Mike
Wattis finally heard-Imean, c'mon!"
Instead of forming another band, Watt
envisioned his album as amusical wres-
tling match, where each of the musi-
cians would get in the ring together and
play for fun. "I didn't use any managers
or anything," he said. "I just asked my
friends - kinda kept it like a low-key
thing, so there wouldn't be this big
pressure of the all-star jam."
Even with the overwhelming num-
ber of musicians on "Ball-Hog,"
Watt's signature sound isn't buried,
even though the album isn't a series
of bass solos. Although his style is
instantly recognizable, it doesn'tlend
itself to gratuitous displays of instru-
mental prowess. "The styleI invented
playing with D Boon was just so bel-
IEHOSE. Two years ago, Watt dis-
ved fIREHOSE -just as the "alter-
native revolution" transformed both
popular and underground music. To-
day, Watt releases his first solo album,
the sprawling "Ball-Hog or Tug Boat?"
Careening between blitzkrieg jazzy
punk, blissful power pop, startling
simple folk ballads, throttling rock, funk
and impassioned spiels, "Ball-Hog"
holds together because of Watt's musi-
vision and his blistering diversity. In
Mort, it has the passionate sensibilities
- if not the sound - of the
A decade later, the Minutemen's
records sound as unique as they ever
have. In fact, the band doesn't even
sound punk, ifyou subscribe to the'90s
ligerent, no one would want to play
with me" explained Watt. "That's
what the title is about. It's about me
on the bass-will I be the ball-hog or
the tug boat? I was making fun of the
idea of a bass player solo album.
When hear that (term), it sounds like
a fusion instructional video. So I was
doing all these things to temper that,
and one of 'em was J. Mascis doing
lead guitar for 12 minutes."
Not only does Mascis contribute the
epic take on Funkadelic's "Maggot
Brain," he sits in on a version of Sonic
Youth's "ToughGnarl." "When wedid
'Tough Gnarl,' Mascis played drums,"
recalled Watt. "And he goes to me,
'Watt, I ain't gonna do any Sonic jam"
So in the middle of the song he jumped
off! (Sonic Youth drummer) Steve
Shelley jumped on-alittle tag team!"
That unpredictability is what makes
"Ball-Hog orTug Boat" reminiscent of
the Minutemen. "(Boon and I) grew up
together, so it was very spontaneous,"
explained Watt. "When I'd show him a
song, D. Boon would come up with a
part immediately; the same thing when
he'd show me his songs. It was kinda
like that with these guys because they
were so enthusiastic - I'd just show
them the tune and they'd go right forit."
Watt is hoping for the same sense of
excitement when he tours this spring.
'I'm doing something with Dave Grohl
and he's got two of these guys from
Sunny Day Real Estate. We're gonna
make kind of a chaotic kind of circus
thing, like an old SST tour. I've toured
the same way for many years, so I'm
gonna try one of these strange things."
Even as Watt carries on the original
ideals of punk, the music is going
through a popular revival. Punk might
Bet you didn't know Jamie could
sing. You probably thought that all he
was good for was telling jokes and
clowning like he did on "In Living
Color." Jamie is more than just a
comic; he has an excellent voice. Still
doubtful, then peep this.
The first song on this CD, also the
title track, while pretty stupid, does
prove early on that we're not listening
be selling more than ever, yet Watt
thinks the connection between theMin-
utemen and the Offspring is weak. "We
were guys that did not fit in with the
'70s and somehow we were getting to
create our own little world," he re-
called. "There were little infections in
every town-this was before MTV, so
they all had their own version of it.
Everybody had their own weird flavor
of it and that made it really interesting.
That's what punk was for us. This idea
of it being kind of a social rebellion
thing, I don't know - I think it's more
a war of ideas, not just a uniform and a
This movie si
Daily Arts Writer
The press release for "Just Cause"
contains the following warning:
"Please do not reveal the plot twists of
this movie to anyone; we believe the
audience's appreciation of the film
would be severely compromised if
they were made aware of the story's
resolution before discovering it for
*mselves. The Filmmakers and
Warner Bros. thank you."
Well, screw you. The ending to
"Just Cause" reeked of overwhelming
predictability less than an hour into the
movie. Yet Sean Connery was willing
to star in this project, even to executive
produce it-a sure sign ofa debilitated
And what a debilitated nose; in
of the more "shocking" scenes,
e strolls through a house for several
minutes before discovering the
homeowners with their throats slashed
and their bodies decomposing. Ordi-
nary people would have started retch-
ing after opening the front door, but
hey - at least it's shocking, right?
Well, explosive scenes like that are
laced throughout the film, but they
alone cannot make a film great. Nor
*h Connery's good looks.
Anyway, "Just Cause" is notmuch
more than a patch-and-paste vehicle
for the former Connery. He plays Paul
Armstrong, a Harvard law professor,'
who boasts about not having tried a
case in 25 years and about his aca-
demic opposition to the death pen-
alty. It's a perfect set up for someone
aching to experience life beyond the
ivory walls. Such an opportunity
comes along when he is asked to
defend Bobby Ferguson, played by
Blair"Whathappened to 'L.A.Law?"'
Underwood, who is awaiting execu-
tion for a murder he claims he didn't
IF Just Cause
with Sean Connery
and Lawrence Fishburne
At Briarwood and Showcase
commit. He has evidence to implicate
the real killer, he claims, played by Ed
Harris. Oh boy.
Lawrence Fishburne plays a local
cop whose unlawful use of force in
Ferguson's arrest leads Armstrong to
question Ferguson's guilt. And talk
about unlawful force - he beats the
heck out of him and then plays Russian
Roulette on him. What a meanie. Any-
way, he sees Armstrong as a pain-in-
the-neck meddler who doesn't know
what he's doing - they go head-to-
head in a few scenes, providing for the
only interesting dramatic tension in the
Kate Capshaw plays Laurie
Armstrong, who doesn't tell her hus-
band that she prosecuted Ferguson in
another case. She does the best she
can with the role, but eventually she is
reduced to a plot device.
All these characters may sound like
the workings ofan intricate legal thriller,
but it's all too simple. Once Connery
frees Underwood, it's only a matter of
waiting for the Hollywood bad-guy-
gets-it-ending that conveys a rather un-
pleasant message. Academics should
keep to their books and let the police do
their job, because even if they behave
brutally, the people they abuse always
end up deserving it.
Worst of all, it regurgitates old
suspense material. Ed Harris's locked-
up-demon-psychopath looks a lot like
Hannibal Lecter, especially in his ap-
preciation of higher culture. But alas,
Ed, as Jodie Foster could tell you -
she knows Anthony Hopkins, and
you're no Anthony Hopkins.
The same can be said of Blair
Underwood in the climatic scene in the
Florida Everglades that looks like an
outtake from "Cape Fear." But while
Max Cady complained about being
imprisoned for 14 years, Blair seeks his
revenge against Kate Capshaw for keep-
ing him locked up for only a day.
Such torment could not possibly
compare to watching this turkey in its
to any amateur vocalist. All he needed
was some straight lyrics and beats to set
himself off. The necessary elements
were provided in "Experiment" and the
somewhat faster-paced "Miss You."
Another rather uninteresting song
on "Peep This" is "Dog House," but
this lapse in musical taste is quickly
made up for in "If You Love Me" and
"Infatuation," two very respectable
pieces of R&B music. "Don't Let the
Sun Go Down" also deserves much
recognition as a nice work.
Jamie isn't only a singer. He is also a
musician whose piano skills will also be
heard throughout"Peep This." This debut
sets Jamie on the right foot and paves the
viewing Jamie as nothing more than the
wig-wearing Wanda, you will delight in
the relaxing sounds ofthis LP's 13cuts, of
which only a handful need to be thrown
away. "Peep This" shows that even Jamie
has his serious side, andI'mjustas serious
when I declare "Peep This" a must-get
- Eugene Bowen
See RECORDS, page 8
HOW TO KEEP PEOPLE'S
HANDS OFF YOUR MONEY.
0 Carry only enough cash to last the day.
Anyone who tries to borrow your last five spot
isn't a friend, anyway.
I Label your spare-change jar "beetle farm." r
f Then, put your beetle farm in a jar labeled
Mark up every space on checks.
Don't leave room for someone to fill in their II
a name and extra zeros.
Keep your wallet in your front pocket.
! It discourages pickpockets. So does wearing
really tight pants. a
Put your picture on your credit card.
A Citibank Photocard is tough for anyone else
to use, unless they look just like you.