The Upshot: Long-running L.A. group spins out infinite variations of literate guitar pop.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
A couple of years ago The Black Watch threatened to cease its scrutiny after a final LP. Clearly, that never happened – indeed, the long-running L.A. band has become even more prolific since, with three albums in three years. Highs and Lows breaks no new ground, but it doesn’t need to. All that’s required for a successful TBW album is for leader John Andrew Frederick to provide a strong batch of songs, and he’s certainly done that here.
As always, guitar pop in all its infinite variations carries the day – “Quondam Redhead” sparkles, “Pershing/Harvard Square” crashes, “Love’s Fever Dreams” and “There’s No Fucking Way” crunch, while “She’s a Mess” manages a spot-on Go-Betweens impression, The band also continues its successful ventures into moodier territory, giving “If Upon a Time That Never Happened” and “He Must Needs Go That the Devil Drives” (title courtesy of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well) a feel not unlike David Bowie’s more atmospheric ballads, and “Eleanor’s Not Hiding” and “Beautiful Sleeper” explore acoustic textures with lovely results. Add in Frederick’s lyrics – beautifully crafted lines that blend literary allusion with colloquial accessibility – and the results are masterfully created songs, brought to perfect auditory life by producer Rob Campanella (the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Quarter After).
On record, The Black Watch rarely dips in quality, but the most amazing thing, as exemplified by Highs and Lows, is that it keeps topping itself.
DOWNLOAD: “She’s a Mess,” “Pershing/Harvard Square,” “If Upon a Time That Never Happened”