Fitted, "First Fits"
Fitted are Mike Watt (The Minutemen, fIREHOSE, many others), Graham Lewis and Matthew Simms of Wire, and Bob Lee (The Freeks, The Black Gang, Fearless Leader). The names Watt and Lewis should make most music aficionados run for their wallet, but the first album from this supergroup was released with little fanfare. Imagine tossing together the punk of The Minutemen and Wire‚Äôs experimentalism, alternately fronted by Lewis‚Äô resigned, wavering vocals and Watt‚Äôs staccato uttering. The two legendary bassists provide an onslaught of heaviness, broken by the psychedelic guitar swirls of Simms and Lee‚Äôs bright drum beats, and then drive everything home founded on years of musicianship from four practiced musicians.
Originally formed for a one-off gig at Wire's 2017 DRILL LA festival, the four went on to release this album of originals in November 2019. The contents are very much of these two masters, and taken up a notch with the addition of Sims and Lee. Watt cites Wire as an influence on Minutemen, and brings in Lee from Los Angeles glam metal outfit Fearless Leader. Both Watt and Lee played in Los Angeles garage punk group The Black Gang. A brief online search finds Black Gang blazing through a fierce cover of "TV Eye," which makes sense, since Watt has played with reformed versions of The Stooges. The album matches the length of a garage punk album (it is over in about 40 minutes) but never sits still, each song bringing a new surprise.
Despite the history of each member, it would be limiting to call it a punk album. Both Watt and Wire have broken the boundaries of this label for years. The closest Fitted get to this is in "The Chunk that Got Chewed," which kicks off with in-your-face Minutemen sound that segues into a familiar fIREHOSE sound, and then spreads out into a gorgeous expanse of fuzzy landscape, before cascading back into punk territory. Lewis‚Äô unique vocals bring in a disaffected pop-punk sentiment and spoken-word cadence, while Simms brings in atmospheric guitar riffs that shine through the concentrated bass lines. Lee knows exactly when to use his drums to bring things back together when electronics, bass and guitar diverge into aggressive psychedelic exploration ("Magically Blessed"). Finally, as if to prove this is anything but a punk album, the album ends by floating out into space ("The First Fit"), a psychedelic journey of intense proportions -- subtle drums, droning bass, chiming interstellar guitar tones, and splashes of spaced-out electronics -- all barely grounded by aching vocals by Graham.
Writing about legends can make for a daunting task. Writing about legends that expand outside of their bands can prove more difficult when enshrouded in such legendary status. Both Watt and Lewis could easily rest on their laurels, each having played in such storied groups. Instead, Fitted is unlike these aforementioned bands, meshing the best of each member to create something far greater.