Mike Watt & the Secondmen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mike Watt & the Secondmen

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Like other memoirs about serious illness, Mike Watt's new The Secondman's Middle Stand (Columbia) is at times disarming and painful: as song titles like "Puked to High Heaven" and "Pissbags and Tubing" indicate, the inspiration to be found here is not of the greeting-card variety. In early 2000, after five-plus weeks of misdiagnosed fever, Watt underwent emergency surgery for a life-threatening burst abscess in his perineum--"between the legs, just rear of the balls," as he explained in a postoperative e-mail to fans. Within the year, he was busily touring again, and since his recovery he's played bass with J. Mascis, the reunited Stooges, and his own slate of projects. Middle Stand suggests, however, that he's yet to regain full strength: while it's ambitious enough on paper (Watt says he patterned it loosely on the Divine Comedy), the album lacks the reach of his finest post-Minutemen moment, 1997's Contemplating the Engine Room, and his normally stout vocals sound somewhat underfed. But his very eagerness to tell this dire story gets it across, and his bass work, as slithery and elliptical as ever, is ferally intense. The Secondmen's trio lineup is unique for a Watt band in that Pete Mazich's Hammond B-3, rather than a guitar, does the harmonic heavy lifting. The organ proves flexible enough to match the changing moods of Watt's saga--by turns sinister, chaotic, and uplifting--as well as his fighting spirit. The group will perform Middle Stand in its entirety at this show; Oh My God and Camaro Rouge open. Thursday 7, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Watt.

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