Rhythm & Views

The Black Watch

There are infinite ways to start a record; bands try all kinds of tricks, from putting in weird noises to hitting you full-on with a wall of sound. The Black Watch, however, opts for the more traditional route, beginning Very Mary Beth with some good old-fashioned guitar and John Andrew Frederick singing, "I don't know, but something triggers, when you cupped your hand to my face and all these shivers just ran."

No fancy computer sounds, no tricks--just straightforward love songs wrapped around warm, crisp guitars and good lyrics. It's like The Black Watch hails from some other time, when all you needed was your heart on your sleeve and an acoustic guitar in your hand to make a record that could be played along to a late-night ice-cream-eating marathon with your best friend. And, in fact, The Black Watch has been around since 1987, which is longer than many current teenagers have been walking this Earth.

Very Mary Beth, the band's seventh record, is '80s rock/pop fermented in Los Angeles, and the result will get you singing along drunkenly with its sweet, sweet simplicity.

"There's only one letter between 'bitter' and 'better,'" points out Frederick (who holds a doctorate in English Literature, by the way) in "Bitter Getting Better," and if The Black Watch is what happens when you let Teenage Fanclub, American Music Club and My Bloody Valentine age together in a barrel for a few years then, in the words of Frederick, "I wanna dance and shout and stuff." It's way better than bitter.

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