The Black Watch are this underrated little beauty of a band that are still going strong thanks to the indefatigable founder/bandleader John Andrew Fredrick. There's a new album due out this year and a couple of months ago he played a series of UK solo acoustic dates with the similarly godlike and undeservedly obscure Pat Fish aka the Jazz Butcher. I really need to catch up with their most recent albums and am annoyed with myself for having not done so.
The other not so secret weapon of the band, who joined a year after Fredrick started it up in 1987, is J'Anna Jacoby, whose violin is central to much of the group's music, and together they make some killer songs, bluntly put. My favorite album of theirs remains one of their earliest, Flowering, which I just put on now -- it's a standby album, one of those records you never get tired of, and you're glad is always there for you when you're not too sure what you want to hear. My AMG review is here but hell with it, I'll quote the whole thing:
Right from the brilliant opening song, "Terrific," the listener is clearly in good if familiar hands -- a brisk, clipped power pop/U.K.new wave rocker that eschews feedback in favor of a clean punch, all topped by the lovely violin work by Jacoby, showing why she's been in demand as a side person on a number of other recordings, and a sweet-and-sour lyric sung by both Frederick and Jacoby. Familiar hands, though, because "Terrific" also showcases one oddly inescapable element of the Black Watch, at least at this time -- Frederick's drop-dead vocal similarity to Ian McCulloch, maintained persistently throughout the record. It gets especially noticeable on "Jennifer, Jennifer" -- though it's a great number, a gentle romantic thing with a neat Beatles lyrical reference to boot, it's incredibly similar to McCulloch's "Candleland" (right down to the way Jacoby joins Frederick on harmonizing a line in the exact same way and same point in the song). All this said, Flowering is still an underrated gem of an album; released right when Nirvana and Pearl Jam hit, and on a small California label at that, its crisp, pop-friendly-with-a-bite feel got undeservedly lost in the grunge onslaught. Other recommended numbers include the ruminative "Jaded" and the fine album closer "The Stars Come Down."
I was lucky enough to catch them live at the Whisky around this time -- I forget who they were opening for -- and I still remember the show well. :-) God bless their classically just postpunk enough Anglophilic selves -- at a time when For Against are getting more attention again, the Black Watch shouldn't be forgotten either.
So again, any other fans?
― Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 29 June 2005 00:37 (fourteen years ago) link
― Michael Costello (MichaelCostello1), Wednesday, 29 June 2005 00:44 (fourteen years ago) link
― Ned Raggett (Ned), Wednesday, 29 June 2005 12:10 (fourteen years ago) link
John and J'Anna slept on my floor in 94, The album that came out last year is a stunner. As John once said, "I make music that I want to hear and can't find". Too right!
― Mr. Odd, Sunday, 3 June 2007 03:54 (twelve years ago) link
I think I have that one around -- John's been nice enough to send me a couple of recent releases via burns for review, and I don't know if I got to them all!
― Ned Raggett, Sunday, 3 June 2007 03:54 (twelve years ago) link
New album "The End Of When" is out with a bonus best-of. This band deserves ILM love, the last two albums with Steve Schayer is like a creative rebirth.
― Gerald McBoing-Boing, Friday, 27 September 2013 02:09 (five years ago) link
Highs And Lows got me interested last year, but the only thing they have on Bandcamp is the compilation that comes with The End Of When, but doesn't even include The End Of When (can stream it here: https://youtu.be/znNtdhzndwA)!
They were offering the double CD for $12 before Xmas, apparently the only way to order is to email popculturepressr✧✧✧@gm✧✧✧.c✧✧, like it's 1994. Kind of explains why there's been no response on this thread. However from what I've heard I think the effort to seek them out is worth the effort. Various CDs are available on Amazon too.
John Andrew Frederick also wrote a trilogy. The third, The Hollow Crown is not yet published.
The King Of Good Intentions (1999/2013)Set in Los Angeles in the early 90s, the novel chronicles the early days of an indie band as they meet, practice, make their first record, and get their first break/big gig. It’s also the story of the the flowering love affair between John and Jenny, the two charming if troubled guitarists/singers in the band. John is by day a misanthropic substitute teacher in the zany, sometimes horrific LA Unified School District; Jenny is an mysterious recovering child prodigy. Along the way, the couple and their bandmates make momentous discoveries about themselves and the Hollywood milieu in which they struggle to succeed, a world peopled by narcissistic actors, wannabe screenwriters, pretentious musicians, weirdo fans, crazy neighbors -- and an emu.
The King of Good Intentions was originally to have been published by Henry Rollins’s 2.13.61 press in 1999. When Rollins decided henceforth to publish only his own work, Fredrick set the novel aside to focus on his musical and teaching career. Now it will finally make its long overdue debut.
The King of Good Intentions II: The Continuing and Really Rather Quite Hilarious Misadventures of an Indie Rock Band Called The Weird Sisters (2015)
― Fastnbulbous, Wednesday, 4 January 2017 23:08 (two years ago) link
King of Good Intentions was a fun read. Need to get to the second.
― Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 4 January 2017 23:12 (two years ago) link
Love these guys, or rather this guy. First got into the Black Watch in the Tatterdemalion / Icing the Snow Queen era, though haven't done a great job keeping up. I usually only find out they have a new album when Jack Rabid reviews it. The pretty recent "Orange Kicks"/"Jealously" single is good.
― geoffreyess, Thursday, 5 January 2017 01:39 (two years ago) link
Everything they've done is worth your time. I've been meaning to make up a nice suggested playlist but there's so much gold on each album!
― Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 5 January 2017 03:34 (two years ago) link
I've been binge listening to their catalog. Favorites at the moment:
Led Zeppelin Five (2011)The End Of When (2013)Jiggery-Pokery (2002)Icing The Snow Queen (2008)The Hypnotizing Sea (2005)
― Fastnbulbous, Tuesday, 10 January 2017 04:06 (two years ago) link
Wait til you get to "Amphetamines"!
― Gerald McBoing-Boing, Tuesday, 10 January 2017 16:11 (two years ago) link
I did! When I binge, I don't hold back ;) I didn't connect with it as much as the later albums.
― Fastnbulbous, Tuesday, 10 January 2017 18:40 (two years ago) link
New album! I wrote a little about it here.
The Gospel According To John (Eskimo Record Label) Apr 21https://youtu.be/u3vYEDSocAc
The Gospel According To John follows-up 2015’s Highs & Lows, and was recorded over the course of eleven months with Rob Campanella of The Brian Jonestown Massacre producing. It is a decidedly guitar-driven record, even for a guitar-driven group, due to the work of Andy Creighton (on loan from his fine band The World Record.)
“We’ve had a history of really great guitarists in the group,” says Fredrick, “Andy did an immense job. The new songs are so dance-y.”
The album’s first single is “Whence,” about which Frederick explains, “Keats said, ‘If poetry doesn’t come as easily as the leaves to a tree, it shouldn’t come at all. He’s being glib, I think, but ‘Whence’ is about inspiration, and how if you question it, it just might go bye-bye.”
Fans of Led Zeppelin 5 (the black watch’s 2010 album, not the non-existent Led Zeppelin record) will enjoy “Oscillating Redux,” a reworking of a haunting track from that recording. The record closes with “Satellite,” which Fredrick claims “is kind of a glorious mess. A way to end a mess of a career maybe? I can’t see recording another LP. Let it be.”
Of course, Fredrick has said this before, including during the entirety of promoting the band’s 2013 coming-out-of-retirement / going-back-into-retirement double-album, The End of When. the black watch has released several albums since.
― Fastnbulbous, Wednesday, 1 March 2017 22:44 (two years ago) link
I think it may be better than "Highs & Lows", or at least the best bits. There's a couple of tracks where John tries to stretch his singing style with mixed results.
But it's great he's still making music, despite his many threats to stop!
― Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 2 March 2017 21:28 (two years ago) link
Album #16 (!) Witches! came out a few weeks ago. And I'm just getting around to the previous one.
― geoffreyess, Thursday, 30 August 2018 16:33 (ten months ago) link
It's as good as indie rock gets. This time he adds psych touches which really work. John just keeps rolling...
― Gerald McBoing-Boing, Thursday, 30 August 2018 18:28 (ten months ago) link
Surprise! A promo copy of a new album showed up in the mail recently. It's called Magic Johnson and it already strikes me as one of their best (that I've heard), remarkably self-contained from such a prolific band. Nice cover art, too. It also appends a new EP and arrived with a best-of (different from the 2013 one) titled 31 Years of Obscurity. Maybe the level of obscurity is part of what keeps the new stuff from feeling like a GBV-style self-reflexive onslaught.
― geoffreyess, Monday, 13 May 2019 04:08 (two months ago) link
Heeeey, I was coming here to post something about that as well. It gets better with each listen. The "Paper Boats" EP that it adds is totally captivating, beautiful songs that combine nostalgia and hope.
Speaking of nostalgia, there's also another release "The Vinyl Years: 1988-1993" which collects the first "St. Valentine" album, the "Short Stories" EP as well as 7" b-sides (which I've never heard!). I'm still hoping for a tour on the east coast.
― Gerald McBoing-Boing, Monday, 13 May 2019 14:44 (two months ago) link