When you speak to Mike Watt, he never goes more than five minutes without mentioning his late friend D. Boon. Boon's absence is a sort of driving force for Watt, who's been living and playing by the "Jam Econo" ethos he, Boon and George Hurley forged with the Minutemen.
As in life, so in art: Boon's absence is also the most immediately tangible thing on this Unknown Instructors album, a rare Minutemen rhythm section reunion from Watt and Hurley. That's not saying that they and their new cohorts (Joe Baiza on guitar and Dan McGuire and Jack Brewer spittin' lyrics) made a crap record; it's just that when you hear that bass running wild and deep and those drums just slipping and thumping and splattering, well, you miss the fuck outta D. Boon.
The Way Things Work is freeform rock with beat-like poetry spoken in the grooves—so it's not that far removed from what the Minutemen were up to, anyway. But Baiza (of Saccharine Trust fame) is more feedback and jam band noodling than Boon's jagged machete guitar chops. Jack Brewer sounds like an articulate Bobcat Goldthwait, his voice strong but with a hint of neurotic quiver that matches the tone of these improvised sessions a little better than McGuire's does.
Still, the two deliver, with super-vivid rapping that used to be called slam poetry. But even—er, especially—when they anthologize a buncha Boon lines together on the track "Punk (Is Whatever We Made It to Be)," you end up just longing to hear Double Nickels on the Dime one more time.