In one of the most winningly eccentric rock concept albums ever made, Mike Watt, former Minutemen and Firehose bassist, imagines himself working below deck on the good ship hardcore-punk. "Contemplating the Engine Room" combines Watt's interests in working-class politics and his hometown of San Pedro, L.A.'s industrial port area, with his reminiscences of the halcyon days of SST Records: Claiming to "still see them sailors in my brain," he proceeds to list members of Black Flag, Husker Du, the Descendents and other '80s hardcore comrades.

Such references may be too arcane for some listeners, but no special knowledge is required to appreciate the album's lively jazz-punk and engaging sense of humor. Seamlessly shifting from mock-sailor chants to free-ranging guitar, such songs as "The Boilerman" and "No One Says Old Man (to the Old Man)" are both economical and expansive. Watt says all that he wants about the American class structure when he asks what the engine crew member sees when he sticks his head out the hatch, quickly answering, "Topsiders!" Such puckish moments make "Contemplating the Engine Room" an oddball treat. Appearing Sunday at the Black Cat with Miltown. To hear a free Soundbite from Mike Watt, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8113. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)