California band The Black Watch make music that is literate and lyrical. The group's newest album, The Gospel According to John, is out now and I'm here to hip you to the greatness of this crew.
On a cut like "Way Strange World" front-man John Andrew Frederick performs in a manner that recalls nothing so much as Jaz Coleman on Eighties-era Killing Joke cuts, all quavering wonder (and fear) crushed under the weight of the modern world set atop a jagged post-punk hook . Elsewhere, on the superb "The All-Right Side of OK", The Black Watch hit a vibe that's part U2, part early James, and all original. Frederick appears intent on making this largely smart rock but he's remarkably unpretentious about it, achieving his goals in the manner of Adrian Boland marching The Sound through their paces, or a less romantic Ian McCulloch putting together a grittier version of Echo and the Bunnymen. And, yes, those references are intended to educate new listeners that The Black Watch make the sort of literate New Wave astute listeners once had lots of before them. A number like "Orange Kicks", for instance, blissfully recalls the sort of pre-grunge guitar-rock that once ruled college radio airwaves. If Frederick and company are adding anything new here it's an American spin on this kind of thing. Going further with this than earlier Yank acts like Grant Lee Buffalo or Wire Train attempted, the music of The Black Watch is a dash of early Waterboys, a hint of Joy Division, and a clutch of hooks from the sort of acts that were once criticized for making heroic rock. Still, there's no shame in that sort of thing when the material is as melodic as "A Story", or as transcendent as the Television-recalling "Satellite", the epic that closes The Gospel According to John.
Bright but with dark undercurrents, brainy but not pretentious, the music here on the new album from The Black Watch is proof that some Americans have a knack for this sort of thing. Full of big and bold music, The Gospel According to John is a record of luminous beauty in spots.
The Gospel According to John is out now. More details on The Black Watch via the band's official Facebook page.
[Photo: Uncredited Bandcamp image]