A Brief Tribute To “Ball-Hog Or Tugboat?”
Ball-Hog Or Tugboat? was Mike Watt‘s first solo album, and when it came out in 1995, I had never heard of the Minutemen. But I bought it anyway because of “Against the ’70s,” which was about the ’70s being bad (of which I was aware) and was sung by Eddie Vedder (of whom I was very, very aware). When I bought the tape (!), the insert was laid out like a wrestling poster, listing the personnel who played on every song, and while I was only aware of a handful of them (Henry Rollins, Dave Grohl), the fact that people like Petra Hayden and Nels Cline were given equal billing made me think that they were important, too.
I wonder what the reaction would be to this sort of project today—if, I dunno, Mark Robinson was to make a play for the mainstream by gathering together a bunch of middlebrow superstars and releasing an album on Universal. The possibility of a backlash seems large, and while I don’t know what the reaction was to Ball-Hog at the time, suffice to say it served its purpose for me: I slowly but surely began exploring the landscape mapped out on the insert, and while the people who drew me to the album then wouldn’t really interest me today, I can still hear probably my favorite singer of all time covering a fantastic Sonic Youth track, played by the members of Sonic Youth basically like the original but faster (Carla Bozulich on “Tuff Gnarl”). Add to that a bunch of great, poppy Watt originals and J Mascis wailing on a Parliament track and you’ve got an album that, I think, still stands up today.
The video above is for “Big Train,” while the link below will send you to a video for “Piss-Bottle Man.” Ah, the ’90s: when a major label would pay for a video for a song about peeing in a bottle, the big selling point of which was that the frontman of the Lemonheads was on vocals.