Even though the California based group has been knocking about since the ‘80s – albeit in various different forms – The Black Watch’s sound is still completely fresh and invigorative. ‘The Gospel According to John’ plays like a fever dream of the best kind. It’s hazy, psychedelic vibes hark back to more carefree times, yet the rejuvenating instrumentation and lyrical content breathes into it a new, contemporary breath of life.
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Kicking off with the energised ‘Whence’, the sleepy vocals and wavy, beachy vibes instantly cleanse the listener. The roaring feedback creates a similar effect as holding a shell to your ear in order to hear the sea. Within the first few seconds you find yourself succumbing to a totally relaxed frame of mind which allows you to fully envelope yourself in the album. Already you can sense the serious Echo and the Bunnymen vibes which surf throughout the entire album, particularly when it comes to John Andrew Fredrick’s McCulloch-esque vocals. Second up, ‘Way Strange World’ is a particularly strong track which seems to encapsulate the general consensus regarding the current state of the world. The repetitive vocal melody and triadic lyrics seems to reflect the cyclical nature of events that unfortunately plague our planet.
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The Black Watch are particularly skilful when it comes to using instrumentation in order to create a certain atmosphere. ‘The All-Right Side of Just OK’ for example, incorporates distant, barely decipherable vocals. The there-but-not-quite sense of numbness it conjures ties it in nicely with the song’s theme. Seventh in line ‘Oscillating Redux’ is another strong example, as the track does literally seem to oscillate, with all elements of the song joining forces to create a sinister, haunting feeling. Again, in the album’s dreamy closing track ‘Satellite’ – whose intro wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by The Strokes – the instrumentation is fuzzy like satellite transmission.
Despite sporting a discography that spans the best part of three decades, The Black Watch still remain very much current. Their youthful aesthetic opens them up to a whole new contemporary audience and allows them to continually grow, even at this stage in their lifespan. ‘The Gospel According to John’ might even be one of the best, if not the best album of their career.
‘The Gospel According to John’ is out now via The Eskimo Record Label.