Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
In an earlier review, I stated that although The Feelies are not really country music or twang, I would make an exception to cover them because of their impact on me and on music in general. The same holds true for any project Mike Watt is in. Mike Watt is the bass player in this unique trio that defies categorization. Prior to this, Watt was the bass player and one of the founding members of the legendary punk band, The Minutemen and went on to form Firehose, as well as many other noteworthy projects. With an almost 40 year career in music, Watt may be the hardest working man in music. He and the other two members of Il Sogno Del Marinaio (The Sailor’s Dream in Italian) will embark on a tour of Europe where they will play 32 shows in 32 days. That would be a feat for a 20 year old, but Watt is 58! He may be superhuman! This self-taught bass player has become one of the most respected in all of alternative music. He keeps amazing time and really accentuates the harmonics of the instrument.
Canto Secondo is the second offering from this trio. In addition to featuring Watt on bass, there is Andrea Belfi on drums and Stefano Pilia on guitar. The chemistry and talent displayed on Il Sogno Del Marinaio is palpable. If I had to venture a guess as to trying to describe their musical style, I would say Captain Beefheart meets The Grateful Dead meets freeform jazz. It is experimental but not so much as to make it unlistenable. On the contrary, this album quite enjoyable and sonically pleasing even though they push the envelope quite a bit. I get the sense that these songs are just the canvas and in a live setting they stretch these songs out a lot and paint a different picture every night. Improvisation is front and center. The songs are kept at a comfortable length and are not self-indulgent. Two songs are a little over five minutes and most clock in at the three minute mark.
There is a lot of open space on this record that also makes it a relatively easy listen. Mountain Top (Track 5) has a real Minutemen feel to it as Pilia plays a solo that sounds like something D. Boone would have played. You can concentrate on each individual instrument, but you don’t have to. They gel together so well that they create one sound. Animal Farm Tango (Track 1) starts off with almost a marching band style drum fill followed by Watt doing some spoken word while a spacy and dreamy guitar wails in the background. My description doesn’t even come close to giving an idea of the beauty and subtleties of this musical piece. You will just have to listen for yourself. That goes for all of the songs on Canto Secondo. Just give it a listen. This isn’t for everyone. Some may find it challenging, but those who enjoy a little bit of boundary pushing in their music will love it. Go to their website where you can listen to some tracks and buy it.