EP Review – The Neverland of Spoken Things by The Black Watch (2022) (Atom Records)

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The interweb is filled with angsty artistes. When not moaning about the plethora of curators that fail to approve their submission on Submithub, the much proffered subject of their scorn are ‘greedy labels’ cashing in on the current frenzied “vinyl hipster-ism”, by releasing re-issues, and re-issues of re-issues (…and beyond), which clog up the vinyl pressing plants for new music. It will change once the world goes back to CD in a couple of years…but until then it’s a whinge-fest.
John Andrew Fredrick and his long standing The Black Watch project have taken a more refreshing and certainly less sqwinnying approach to such delays, by using the time to pen more music (along with Bernard Yin and Rebecca Ramirez of Par Avion) to flesh out the intended release of the initial single from their delayed Future Strangers LP, into an EP. An ad hoc EP if you will, born from the will of making a positive out of a negative.
The self titled single from the forthcoming LP, The NeverLAnd of Spoken Things, offers grumbling lo-fi fuzz, slight gaze infections, sudden piercing electric riffs and the vocal interplay between the sweetness of Lindsay Murray’s (Gretchen’s Wheel) voice and Fredrick in the lowest of his registers. It could feel ever so slightly melancholy if the early 90s, laconic guitar-pop aesthetic of acts like The Lightning Seeds did not offer a more sprightly energy.
The following, Precious Little track does take more of a leap into a danker sound. Here the fuzz is largely dropped, to reveal a more dense post-punk sound, that sees Frederick revert to a more rounded, theatrical vocal intonation as the aesthetic moves towards a more spacious Galaxie 500 style, call into the dark sound, that manages to evoke that sense of ‘spellbinding’ that The Black Watch is famed for.
The closing Living Backwards is certainly the highlight of the EP. Layering the chiming jangle and deliberation of Cerulean style The Ocean Blue, with slight fuzz and the warm emotionality of the more natural Frederick vocals, this track would grace any ‘best of’ compilation that any avid The Black Watch fan could offer.
Over 25+ year this act has never disappointed and even in this three track format, it has so much to offer.

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