The Upshot: Three decades on, the quality of guitar pop songcraft remains more than just high – it’s inspiring.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Few things are predictable in this world. But one that generally is: if The Black Watch releases a new record, it’s bound to be good. Sure enough, The Gospel According to John – the L.A. act’s fifteenth album, give or take a half dozen EPs – is damn good. Leader John Andrew Frederick long ago established his mastery of taking his influences, from the Beatles to My Bloody Valentine, and distilling them down into his own vision of literate indie rock, and he’s in top form here. “Whence” and “The All-Right Side of Just OK” mix shoegazing guitars with unfancy pop hooks, with a motorik rhythm sneaking into the latter. “Orange Kicks,” “Satellite” and “A Story” add considerable rock muscle, the latter stretching out in a way that makes it a natural show-closer. The band also revisits “Oscillating,” from its fine 2011 LP Led Zeppelin Five and reminds us how easy Frederick makes doing simple pop songs look with “Jealously.”
There’s no overarching theme or sense of purpose here, unless the cheeky wit of the title serves as a guiding principle. The Gospel According to John is simply a collection of extra-strength guitar pop tracks that should inspire delight in fans and jealousy in peers. As this LP proves, TBW is nearing its 30th (!) anniversary, and unlike so many bands of advancing age, continues to get better and better.
DOWNLOAD: “A Story,” “Orange Kicks,” “Whence”