In a 1983 Village Voice piece, gonzo critic Richard Meltzer praised the Minutemen for, among other things, the raw poetry of the band’s lyrics—“whether or not (and ‘relevantly’ or not) its meter-and-pulse as delivered (recited, ‘sung’) has ever particularly meshed with that of its music accompaniment (which of course is the POINT).” Clearly he saw kindred spirits in the avant-punk group’s two singers, guitarist D. Boon and bassist Mike Watt. Soon after, Meltzer offered the Minutemen 10 of his own poems—“spiels”—in hopes of collaborating. That hope was dashed in 1985 when Boon died in a van accident and the Minutemen disbanded. Now Meltzer has at last teamed with Watt (as well as guitarist Hirotaka Shimizu and drummer Yuko Araki of the Japanese art-pop group Cornelius) to form Spielgusher. But the project’s self-titled album accomplishes little—besides confirming that the collaboration might have been better left as a what-if.
On a strictly instrumental level, Spielgusher’s 63 mini-tracks bear sporadic riches. While not contributing the most impassioned playing of his career, Watt builds a pulsing, low-frequency foundation for Shimizu to smear his atmospherics across; being someone best known for his pairing with harsh guitarists, Watt’s delicate synergy with Shimizu makes for a beautiful contrast. The problems occur when Meltzer steps in. “All my knives are blunt / Which doesn’t mean they’re limp / They’re blunt,” he mutters on “This Limp Tempting Talk,” and it sets the tone for the rest of the disc’s aimless, sub-Beat stabs at profundity. “We humans have such pitifully limited use / All we are is a pathetic waste of cells,” he drones elsewhere, his bored-of-breathing ennui deflating whatever meager momentum his hackneyed verse is able to gather. The lazy self-deprecation of “Generic Death Poem” doesn’t help, nor does the watered-down Lenny Bruce-ism of “Fuck Awareness Week,” in which Meltzer hammers away at the word “fuck” like a boxer pounding an opponent knocked senseless long ago.
In Meltzer’s collection, A Whore Just Like The Rest, he introduces his Village Voice piece on the Minutemen by reiterating his original point, rightly saying that the group’s roughhewn lyrics rose to the level of transcendence, including those songs “that don’t rhyme, those deemed unsingable, those that look like they could ‘use more work.’” It’s a shame that Meltzer—both enabled and overshadowed by Watt and his band, who do their best to salvage Spielgusher’s no-win situation—seemed to think that making his own unrhyming, unsingable, could-use-more-work record was the way to prove it.