Almost inexplicably, I became a big fan of the first Il Sogno Del Marinaio album. I say "inexplicably" because it's music outside my normal areas of interest. But I listened and was immediately a fan.
Well, now Il Sogno Del Marinaio -- Mike Watt, Stefano Pilia, and Andrea Belfi -- are back with Canto Secondo on Clenched Wrench and it's every bit as good as their first record.
"Animal Farm Tango", with some spoken word bits by Watt, rides in on a martial beat by Belfi and some evocative slide work by Pilia. Watt's bass oozes in like warm liquid running over a road. The track soars when Watt makes it funky, and Belfi rides the cymbals, and Pilia finally cuts loose with some squalls of feedback near the end.
"Alain" is all bluesy menace and early Soundgarden riffage. Not so loud as those guys but certainly of a mood with their early, slower tracks. If that sounds odd, spin this one and see what I mean. The unholy love child of Sub Pop -- or, in Mike Watt's case and to make a better comparison, SST Records -- and jazz? You be the judge. I dug it.
"Nanos' Waltz" is jagged edges and melody with some excellent percussive effects by Belfi. Recalling Pere Ubu in some weird way -- Watt's near-whispered vocals called to mind a less manic David Thomas for me -- the song is gentle and affecting despite a near fusion-y coda.
"Skinny Cat" rolls in like distant thunder and turns into a nice showcase for both Belfi and Pilia in separate passages.
"Mountain Top" marries some near-bluegrass-style picking from Pilia with Belfi's rippling drums. Watt holds things together as the other two trade lines.
The positively funky "Il Sogno Del Finile" -- the "final song"? Is that a good translation? -- is like late-period Hendrix stuff with all 3 players here firing on all cylinders. Watt snarls the lyrics and the drums and guitar rattle around him. A highlight of Canto Secondo for me.
"Auslander" starts with a near-Mick Karn-ish hook from Watt. Pilia adds in some guitar figures that are very nearly Fripp-like but Belfi's cymbals and drums keep things focused and the cut stays jazzy. The interplay by Watt's bass and Belfi's percussion is a charmer here and Pilia soars in spots (again).
"Stucazz?!!" is nearly like a Zappa cut. What sounds like a throwaway quickly coalesces into a strutting and slow-burning number. Silly but with some sharp work from Pilia's slashing guitar here along with hard beats by Belfi and Watt's sassy bass.
"Sailor Blues" is the longest song on this record and it's still shorter than the longer tracks on Il Sogno Del Marinaio's first record. It opens with some scorching riffs and sinewy bass-lines. Things slow down and the guitar plucks continue as the drums roll and the cymbals crash -- Watt walking up the bass slowly now. Things roar back to life with some transcendent guitar riffs by Stefano Pilia. Just glorious flashes of brilliance here as the guitar slices in supple lines and bursts of intensity.
"Us in Their Land" is hard and Belfi is Buddy Miles-like in his playing here. A hard rocker in spots, it's another highlight of this album for me. Pilia's guitar climbs and Watt's bass ties things down. The mood gets quiet and then the record ends as it must -- with a glorious series of guitar squalls and lines from Pilia.
Il Sogno Del Marinaio have again produced a splendid record that hurdles over genre labels with ease. Musicians will relish these performances while fans of Mike Watt's should also marvel at this new venture for the veteran rocker.
And in a sign of true magnanimity, Watt has let guitarist Stefano Pilia and drummer Andrea Belfi truly shine here. While the Mike Watt connection might sell more copies of this album, and get fans outside this style of music -- like me -- to pick up the record, play it, and love it, the former Minuteman has offered up a real showcase of these musicians here. Canto Secondo by Il Sogno Del Marinaio is a triumph for the virtuosic guitar playing of Stefano Pilia and the subtle and powerful drumming of Andrea Belfi.