A CD arrives in the mail today, a debut from a band named Fitted called First Fits. It’s from ORG Music, which means it can be anything from jazz to classic rock to everything in between. I stick the CD in my player because I got nothing else going on at the minute. The first song is crunchy, with muffled and distant vocals, and from the droning guitars and the copious feedback and reverb I start to think about English space rock from the ’90s. I start thinking about Spiritualized, yeah that’s who this sounds like, and their predecessor Spacemen 3. Dreamy, droning, almost theatrical in size. Sometimes we called this music shoegaze, sometimes we didn’t.
Okay, I can’t stand it any more and I have to figure out who Fitted is. I glance at the line-up of vaguely familiar names: Bob Lee on drums and backing vocals, Edvard Graham Lewis on bass, synth and vocals, Matthew Simms on guitar, synth and backing vocals, and…oh my…there he is. Mike Watt on bass and “spiel.” That’s who Fitted is, and that’s why I asked someone at ORG Music to send me First Fits.
If you don’t know who Mike Watt and his spiel is, and I look down my nose at you if you don’t, he was the bassist of one of my two favorite LA bands of all time, Minutemen. (The other band, of course, is X.) Minutemen’s 1984 opus Double Nickels on the Dime is my second favorite rock album of all time. (Pixies’ Doolittle is the first.) After singer/guitarist D. Boon’s tragic death in 1985, Mike Watt dismantled Minutemen in honor of his childhood best friend and started several other notable bands–fIREHOSE, Dos and The Reactionaries. I liked those bands, but I never loved them like I loved Minutemen. But Mike Watt is always interesting as a musician, and he’s a kind man with a famously huge heart. Now there’s Fitted, and First Fits, and it’s time to check in with Mike to see how he’s doing.
Mike Watt has never been one of those bassists who’s immediately recognizable to me, but he is the type of bassist who’s always articulate and present, the type who can drive both the beat and the melody at the same time. He’s not flashy at all, but he is solid and musical every step of the way. (Yes, he jams econo.) On First Fits, he sinks into the background a bit on that first song, “Plug in the Jug,” and on the similar-sounding finale “The First Fit.” In between, it’s more rambunctious and clear, sort of a mix between Minutemen at their most lyrical and perhaps early Zappa. The other three are nearly as experienced as Mike Watt–Lee played with The Freeks, and Simms and Lewis played with Wire. In the middle tracks Lee sounds a lot like George Hurley, but it’s the bass that I follow religiously and it makes me warm and nostalgic.
First Fits was recorded from 2017 to 2018 all over the world–UK, Sweden and even a rehearsal in downtown LA. I haven’t heard every single album Mike Watt has played on since 1985, but my love for this album was so immediate that I feel confident in saying it’s probably his most intriguing project since D. Boon left the planet. I’m really glad I decided to take a listen–it made my day.