Yes The Black Watch are back with their 12th album and they have also put out 5 EPs over the years, yet somehow this is still the first album by them that I’ve ever heard and so I’m unable to tell you if they are maturing like a fine cigar or if this is the album where they finally lose the plot and should have given up by now. All I can do is review it on what I’m hearing and the info in the press release that tells me that while they still tour as a 4-piece this album is pretty much a solo album by Main Black Watch man John Andrew Fredrick. Will this improve the band’s luck or doom them to further obscurity? Who knows.
So it opens with an OK jangle pop song Sugarplum Fairy that has decent fizzing guitars and flies by in a very swift one and a half minutes. Before There You Were, however, attempts to melt the speakers in the style of the sort of home recording you get when you try to overlay 4 or 5 guitar sounds without the proper equipment. It’s almost like a bargain basement Sonic Youth and it’s not at all bad.
Scream is neither here nor there indie pop that has “Fey” written all over it which is odd for a song with such a title. The minor indie Pastels meets 14 Iced Bears backing for Dear Dead Love is sort of at odds with the darkness of the lyrics but works and would sound fine on any number of indie playlists.
Darling, I’ve Been Meaning To is sort of like Velvet Crush on downers. No bad thing, actually, though if it’s meant to get his darling back I’m not sure this is going to work. Good Night, Good Night, Good Night is quieter with what sounds like a buzzing amp sitting in one corner while he sings a sort of twisted indie lullaby hoping the shimmering tambourine will make you drop off and ignore the buzz if you can. Quietly Now still has the buzzing amp going as you go back down stairs hoping the kid is sleeping as strangely the song keeps getting louder like he is battling against his own best interests. It’s also a bit like The Wallflowers.
Nothing has a very familiar sound to it and is a bit like the Vaselines songs that Eugene Kelly sings. It has some well odd lyrics about drinking hemlock and arguing with Cassius Clay all while also trying to be a bit like the quiet bits of Cure songs. In many ways it’s also a high spot on the album with the insistent acoustic guitar being the main sound. A cool song.
Anne Of Leaves seems to be a sort of telling of the Anne Of Cleaves story, but not really. Again, it’s a quiet song with a nice piano or keyboard bit as he rues the brief encounter over two drinks at an airport. A Major Favor is so gentle as to be hardly there at all and doesn’t really sound like someone asking for a major favor at all.
The album closes with a love song to Dear Anne who may well have gone walkabout, but it sounds like an attempt at a Nick Drake style folky love song. At only about a minute long it’s also nice and brief and a nice closer to a pretty decent minor indie cult band album.