Some music doesn’t fit neatly into the accepted cultural canon or defined generic boundaries that help keep things organised. There is music that seems to instead exist in alternate timelines and The Black Watch is just such a band. Imagine if the British invasion music crusade had taken place in the late 70’s and that it was driven by London punks who had embraced the likes of The Beatles instead of rejecting them. Or conversely the psychedelic chimes and jangling guitars of the 60’s West Coast sound had fallen down a rift in the fabric of space and time only to re-immerge in a bedsit located in the suburbs of 80’s Manchester? You can either try to imagine the sonic results of such an intriguing series of events, or you could listen to The Gospel According To John.
We seem to be in an era of nostalgia where the demand for the career revivals of older bands, particularly those in that post-punk grouping, is only slightly overshadowed by the amount of new bands generously referencing that era’s sound. But The Black Watch are doing neither of those things as John Andrew Fredrick has been leading the band and driving a string of releases, 15 full albums to date, for 30 years. The Black Watch are a band of the now as well as the then but more importantly all points in between. Continuity is the name of the game.
And as an American west coast based band with an obvious love of the British underground scene the results are a natural and seamless blend of the formers hazy, sunshine infused pop and the latters more earnest and shaded indie urges. Throw in some hypnotic shoegazing, some sonorous dreamscapes, The Soft Boys mercurial blend of pastoral punk and the grand, lush, refined and spirited sound of The Church and you are probably only halfway to being able to pin them down.
For an 80’s kid like myself, it is a heady brew to say the least but the fact that musical appropriation and sonic osmosis has meant that the sound of those post-punk days is back in vogue, even if most of its fans are hearing it through a filter of new bands, The Black Watch fit neatly into that younger market too. How can they fail to have their moment in the sun…all the more deserved as they have been unfairly waiting in the wings for so long?