Defending Ourselves With Guitar Solos
Mike Watt proclaims on the live recording of his 1995 Ring Spiel Tour, “The kids of today should defend themselves against the seventies!” Watt makes a point of noting that he is “speaking as a child of the ’70s,” when he says this. The former bassist for the Minutemen brings lyrics front and center in a twanging, country rock fashion, but still maintains strong punk influences with electric guitar and bass lines that really assist with the narrative on songs like “Drove Up From Pedro.” This track might give you whiplash, alternating between extended solos that seemed to have been prevalent during the tour, cacophonous punk guitars, and bass lines and lyrics that suggest a sort of country-folk vibe. Watt stays pretty connected to his punk roots on this album as a whole, though, later “speaking as a child from the ’90s,” on “Habit,” with its driving, droning guitars and screamed-along lyrics.
Trance-y guitar ostinatos prevail alongside bluesy vocals on “Makin’ the Freeway,” which Watt follows with sardonic stage banter that only seems to be present on the gems that are live albums. Country rock vibes counter the punk influences of tracks later on, like in “Chinese Firedrill,” which Watt dedicates to punk rock producer Joe Carducci. This is followed by the laughable but catchy “Piss-Bottle Man,” which he dedicates to his father. Dedications are all over this album by virtue of it being a live recording. Bass on the transcendent, almost-fully-instrumental interlude “Forever…One Reporter’s Opinion,” evokes Victor Wooten – for feeling if not for virtuosity – and devolves enjoyably into a punk proclamation.
The percussive “E-Ticket Ride” features growly bass and more blues-inflected vocals. “Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing,” originally performed by the Minutemen, is a commentary on mainstream stars’ engagement with humanitarianism that asserts, “If we heard mortar shells, we’d cuss more in our songs, and cut down on guitar solos.” This latter line may be a self-directed jab at Watt himself. “Coincidence is Either Hit or Miss” brings back the whiplash, unable to decide whether it wants to burn its guitar or recite poetry in a smoky coffee shop, much in the way of the maudlin delivery of the later track, “Secret Garden,” and the Wooten-esque recitative of “Powerful Hankerin’.” Finally, Watt features a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and the Black” and thanks his audience: “Thanks for comin’ along with us, hope it was mind-blowing.”