All bands sit at the end of a heritage line – one that joins together the dots that mark their various influences, musical and otherwise. Trace that and you can see the unique DNA of the music they make. LA-based The Black Watch are at the end of a very long and complex line of influence back through musical history – one that connects the likes of The Velvet Underground, Robyn Hitchcock’s The Soft Boys and The Church, to later bands such as Guided by Voices, Interpol and The Editors.
In their 30 years of making music, The Black Watch, who USA Today noted “should have become a household name a long time ago”, return with a new collection of meandering riffs and mercurial lyrical content. ‘The Gospel According to John’ is the band’s 15th album, not including EPs ad singles, following up ‘Highs & Lows’ (2015). This is the result of eleven months of recording with none other than Rob Campanella of The Brian Jonestown Massacre handling production, with mixing by Scott Campbell (Stevie Nicks, Shelby Lynne, Carina Round). The arrival of this new album recalls a recurring and unanswered question – Why has the band never made that jump from cult following to commercial concern?
There is a sense of homecoming in anticipation of the album’s UK release, much of the sonic texture, core sounds, attitude and feel of the music seems rooted more in British 80’s post punk as it does in anything found in the rock traditions of the band’s west-coast base. The baroque pop, psychedelia and chiming guitars would have made them a main contender for the support slot with anyone from Echo and The Bunnymen to XTC to Julian Cope back in the day. Perhaps the UK and USA really aren’t “separated by a common language” and maybe The Black Watch are the arch communicators of our era, building a musical shorthand that can serve as a trans-Atlantic common tongue. Perhaps.
The driving force of the band is one John Andrew Fredrick, a ceaseless creative, who divides his time between making music, writing books, working as a university English lecturer, playing tennis and painting. As if to ram the point home that Fredrick is nothing less that a latter day Renaissance Man, this new album is not his only new release – his latest novel ‘Your Caius Aquilla’ was released on April 11 and his first non-fiction title ‘Fucking Innocent: The Early Films of Wes Anderson’ shall be issued soon (July 11), following up four other well-received novels.
“The response to the new LP has been overwhelming, to say the least, especially considering we had quite modest expectations going in to the studio and a very casual approach to recording it,” notes John Andrew Fredrick. “I imagine its significance has to do with the astonishing guitar work of new lead guitarist Andy Creighton, and my incapability of stopping writing indie pop songs, despite the fact that all last year all I did was listen to classical!”
25 years of Los Angeles living has shaped John Andrew Fredrick, whose songs, riffs and lyrics often come to him while traversing the city’s traffic to and from California Lutheran University, forty-five miles north of Los Angeles, where he lectures in the English department. “We’re greatly inspired by the studio experience itself, the fact that we aren’t part of any scene here in Los Angeles and eschew scenes in general, and an addiction to reading mostly English poetry from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. And always always always T.S. Eliot,” says John Andrew Fredrick.
Here we have a U.S. band who walk effortlessly between cultural divides, who blur the lines between genres and indeed decades, whose lyrics brim with timeless poetic references just as their music is a melting pot of the coolest sounds of recent times. How could they not become your new favourite band?
John Andrew Fredrick–guitars, vocals
Andy Creighton–lead guitar
produced by Rob Campanella
mixed by Scott Campbell
additional engineering: Craig Costigan
art direction and design by Rachel Gutek
all songs written by John Andrew Fredrick
c 2017 closely guarded music BMI/Chrysalis BMG
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3. The All-Right Side of Just Okay
4. A Story
6. Orange Kicks
7. Oscillating Redux
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