Cuz is a collaboration between Mike Watt of The Stooges and Sam Dook of The Go! Team. The pair met whilst with their respective bands at a festival in Australia in 2006, became friends and went on to release a full-length record as Cuz last year. I had initially assumed that the LP’s title, Tamatebako, must refer to a rival product of Homer Simpson’s tomacco, but some Wikipedia research revealed the word to mean “an origami model featured in a Japanese folk tale”.

Watt, held in much affection in alternative-rock circles for his bass/vocals in legendary SST bands Minutemen and fIREHOSE, has talked recently of how he was surprised that Cuz as a live band became a reality because the project was originally expected to be limited to recording. Having subsequently decided to take the Cuz experience on the road as a trio, right now the band is half-way through an 18-date European tour. Tonight is the turn of The Ruby Lounge to play host. On arrival I immediately spot Watt, and judging by his big smile and applause, he’s clearly enjoying himself during the set of bluesy openers Pop.Hysteria.Victim.

Taking to the stage along with Dook and Watt as Cuz tonight, on drums/vocals/samples, is E-Da Kazuhisa, who, incidentally, just like Yoshimi P-We, has played drums in Japanese noise-rock band Boredoms. The descending notes in the hook of opening song ‘Houdini’ reminds me momentarily of Lifter Puller’s ‘I Like the Lights’, and the song features lyrics mostly written and sung by Dook, who plays guitar and handles gadgetry and gizmotry. Watt plays his faithful bass and sings a self-penned bridge in a much deeper voice than Dook, whose vocals make him sound almost like a school kid in comparison.

Some of the songs feature all three band members providing different vocal parts, and ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ is notable for featuring Kazuhisa on lead, spoken-word vocals. There does seem to be a seafaring or oceanic theme that crops up throughout the set. People ride turtles and meet clam diggers and gather around chowder kettles. Some of the pieces are darker in tone and have quiet passages. At times I’m reminded of the band Can, partly because of the Japanese connection, no doubt, but also due to the general weirdness of the music. At one point Kazuhisa seems to circle a mysterious disc with his hand to make it drone.

There’s parity in Cuz between Dook and Watt, but Watt, whose former SST labelmates Meat Puppets are, coincidentally, playing down the road at The Academy tonight, is the band’s frontman live, supplying insight and light-hearted comments between songs. The crowd, whilst certainly modest in number, is noisy and supportive, before Watt thanks us sincerely for choosing to spend one of the 52 Thursdays of the year in their company. It is only the band’s ninth-ever gig. The last music we hear is an energetic encore rendition of a T. Rex song that Watt dedicates to the night’s promoter Jay Taylor (Classic Slum).

The end of the evening leaves time to ponder where Cuz might go from here. It could well be that this tour will be the band’s one and only. Hopefully, though, based on tonight’s exciting performance and with an interesting first record under their belts, Dook and Watt will keep the project going, perhaps pursuing even further the Japanese and J-pop influences that are suggested on Tamatebako. It seems there could well be a whole treasure chest of musical potential just waiting to be discovered in those parts of the North Pacific Ocean or Sea of Japan that the Cuz ship has not yet explored.

The video below, filmed last year for a promotion, shows tonight’s three-piece supplemented by Kaori Tsuchida on lead vocals/rhythm guitar and by Lizzy Carey on banjo/violin.

CUZ Label| Facebook | Twitter (Sam Dook / Mike Watt)

Steve Jones

Apart from about five years in total, I've always lived in Manchester. Shame about the weather and lack of beach, but I do like it here. My all-time favourite gig would have to be The National at the Academy in about 2010, although I did get Matt Berninger's mic cable wrapped around my neck (that was a close one). My guilty pleasures include the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I also felt a bit bad for feeling such joy at seeing Counting Crows live in the early 2000s. I recommend Lifter Puller, a rather obnoxious and unpleasant-sounding band that I can't seem to get enough of, even though they are long disbanded. Amongst my Silent Radio gigs, I was blown away by John Murry. I'll let you know if anything tops that one.