I’m going to jump right into the thick of it and admit I’m not well-versed in Mike Watt’s catalog. In my defense, the man is a workhorse, releasing records with Minutemen, firehose, Stooges, solo, and many many more. I know the big ones, but not the deep cuts. Watt’s songwriting counterpart with Jumpstarted Plowhards is more familiar to me: Todd Congelliere of Toys That Kill, Clown Sounds, F.Y.P, and many more. See any parallels?
Both musicians hail from San Pedro, CA, and both are prolific, creative musicians tied to the punk scene. They do their own thing; they’ve done it a long time; and both have earned respect the hard way. While their music isn’t all that similar on the surface, there are crossed streams and shared stages in their histories. It led to this unique project that really, while I keep talking about bassist Watt and guitarist Congelliere, is about the drums.
Jumpstarted Plowhards is a distinct collaboration. Watt writes the bass, then sends it Congelliere, who adds guitar and vocals around that skeleton. But it’s not that simple. The guitar and bass players have their part done, but then they hand the steering wheel to different drummers based on who Congelliere felt would best fit the song. George Hurley (Minutemen, firehose), Jerry Trebotic (Mike Watt + the Secondmen), Raul Morales (Mike Watt + the Missingmen, F.Y.P), Jimmy Felix (Toys That Kill), Trevor Rounseville (Clown Sounds), Patty Schemel (Hole), Nick Aguilar (Neighborhood Brats), and Brian Brunac (Fartbarf) are on this record, and each driver takes different turns with the material.
What stands out?
For such a project, it’s surprisingly cohesive over the 8 tracks, no doubt because of the defined roles each songwriter played in the process. Congelliere’s stamp is on the material both with his easily identifiable voice, but also in the melodies and hooks that stick with you after the song finishes. Watt’s presence is also prominent, esspecially in the way that his bass interludes give the material extra spice between verses. I would say each of the songwriters’ catalogues have played on those traits.
“The Garter Snakes” is identified as the most Toys That Kill-like song in the press release, but it’s slap-happy bass shows a collaborative approach. “Yeah, We’re Gonna Learn To Fall” has Clown Sounds vibes but featuring Watt-directed change-ups within. It’s rough around the edges rock that’s equally punchy and moving. Things get a little more ethereal in “Claws Break Down,” which mixes a sunny disposition and crescendo effect with some foggy, funky bass lines. That last sentence is a nice metaphor for the coalescence of two musicians, highlighting their differences and how they overlap with So. Cal tones. “Makin’ It All Settle Down” is the highlight to me. It’s got that offkilter melodic punch that Congelliere bands have, but with an extra groove in the rhythm. The jazzy switch-ups in between verses complement that energy but stretch it out and cycle back. The shared vocals further complement that energy shift but it’s always smooth and never disjointed. In a nutshell, that’s a great way to explain Jumpstarted Plowhards.
It may be a studio band for now, but there are plans for growth. Five installments are planned before the band takes to the stage. This is just round one, and it’s building toward something new and massive.
7.5 / 10
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