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Very Mary Beth

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Album Review

If The Cure met up with Modern English, you might have some semblance of what the Black Watch are trying to transmit. "All These Shivers" is just one example as lead singer and songwriter John Andrew Frederick gives a country-tinged vocal over a somber and seminal alternative rock arrangement. This evolves into a sweeter and faster pop tempo during "Mary Beth," another sleeper tune that sounds like David Byrne at times over a relatively basic emotional rock riff. They often venture around the musical map, although the punk-ish "There Must Be Something Wrong" falters temporarily a minute in. Drummer John Glogovacs is the star of the track, something that is the exception to the rule. From there, a handclapping, '60s acoustic pop melody emanates from the appropriately titled "Beautiful." Thankfully they know when to quit a good thing as it wraps up before three minutes. Perhaps the greatest complement to the album is that there are no outstanding songs, just one solidly crafted pop gem after another like "Bitter Getting Better" and the quirky "The Girl of My Dreams." It sounds like the only thing missing from this classic-sounding tune is the cheesy '80s synth textures à la Modern English. The Middle Eastern-influenced "Floating" never reaches its potential despite the guitars layered in the background. What doesn't work though quite as nicely is the mid-tempo somber pop of "That's Just How It Went This Time Around," recalling Tom Petty circa Wildflowers. This slower, Sunday-afternoon-walk manner continues on the lush "Kensington Gardens." A fine continuation of the pop/rock model they've so elegantly perfected with Jiggery-Pokery and The King of Good Intentions.


Formed: 1987 in Santa Barbara, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The lone constant of California's long-running Black Watch is John Andrew Fredrick, an anglophile with a Ph.D. in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Since the late '80s, Fredrick has sporadically released well-regarded albums that have gained comparisons to the House of Love, the Go-Betweens, My Bloody Valentine, the Cure, American Music Club, Yo La Tengo, and late-'60s pop. Unable to secure a stable lineup since forming the group in 1987 (violinist/guitarist J'Anna Jacoby...
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Very Mary Beth, The Black Watch
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