When you approach a new project by legendary Minutemen/Firehose bassist Mike Watt, be prepared to enter the world of artistic idealism. The The Hyphenated Man is a collection of thirty songs that range from one minute to maybe two at the most. The story behind these songs is just as interesting as the album itself. Musically this project is more akin to the Minutemen than anything Watt has done since the passing fellow Minutemen D. Boon. High energy is one term but it would do a disservice to what’s really going on here. Imagine thirty songs where each song is made up of thirty songs and you begin to get the idea of Hyphenated Man.
What Watt’s done here, by his own admission, is create songs that are all the middle, as in each individual song sounds like the middle of another song. Then Watt layers in the multiple parts of each individual song and suddenly you have a project so dense, so compromised of mini-particles, that the very idea of it seems overwhelming.
That’s where Watt’s true genius emerges, his ability to take something so diverse, so bizarrely complex and groove it into a good time. You might get a headache thinking about Hyphenated Man but you’ll also be bopping to it. For me Watt is the closest thing in rock we have to a jazz musician, somebody who understands complexity and how to manage it into something that moves people on a gut level. Watt is calling Hyphenated Man an opera, but to me it’s more of a jazz epic.
Pulling the curtain back, the album gets that much deeper. When Mike Watt goes to work he brings his artistic A game.