A horrible hack

Steve McKay - Mike Watt - Estel

s/t

Year Released: 2009
Format: CD
Label: Richter Collective
 
Reviewed by Joe Callaghan on Apr 3, 2009
I saw Mike Watt’s name and I got giddy, so I mashed my keyboard as quickly as possible to request that I was the chosen one to review this record. I’m a big fan of fIREHOSE, Minutemen (who isn’t?!) and Watt’s exceedingly un-punk rock grooves, so I had very vague but exceptionally high hopes for this. Steve Mckay’s name made me less giddy, but still pleased, in intrigue, more than joy. I have no idea who Estel are…

So, we have 4 tracks named after the 4 gospels, and a Stooges cover sandwiched between. The record doesn’t really start as such - everything just sort of staggers in almost reluctantly with great hesitation and no real flair. More and more layers of dreary instrumentation enter the mould as each minute passes, with nothing really grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and forcing me to listen up. The track lengths are touching into Master Of Puppets territory and still I remain conjecturing whether or not this fruity, mismatched, improvised sax-rock endeavour is going to take off, or if it’s going to remain like a stuttering disjointed mess not dissimilar to Bill Clinton tooting Saturday-night primetime game-show theme-tunes whilst trapped inside some kind of distorted, mind bending time-warp. Half way through the record, it seems to be leaning towards the latter.

By the time the Stooges cover rolls around, things begin to pick up. There’s already a blueprint laid out, and it’s just a matter of keeping in line. The instrumentation is rigid, tight and fluid and is carried strongly by the saxophone cutting through the mix and leading the rhythm section along a memorable melody. The cover only acts as a short interlude between the 4 improvised tracks though, so once it has ended, it is back to yet more chewed-up improvisations which just seem far too difficult to absorb. Whilst the 4 improvised tracks lack any real coherence, nothing ever goes off the rails. No tragically audible errors or bum notes. Nothing exposes itself as being completely unworthy or erroneous. It just plods along inconsistently, in a sparse, uncontrollable folly. But this project involves Mike Watt, and I have my reputation to think about… 10 out of 10. Would listen again.

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