Stream The Gospel According to John from The Black Watch

Before there were blogs and music streaming there was the Black Watch. Now, 15 albums into their career, the band have crafted what I’m going to say is their best work yet. Each time I play it, I’m struck by something that has me scrambling to press repeat, to tune into a note or an element I didn’t hear the first run though, even now as I speak, I’m doing just that. If you’re a fan of pop music and poetry, stream The Gospel According to John. And if you want my two-cents on the track by track breakdown, skip beyond the jump. Otherwise, pick up the album tomorrow courtesy of The Eskimo Record Label and Pop Culture Press.

Whence – This song is all about Fredrick’s vocal performance. There’s a sincerity to his calming delivery as the guitars seemingly dance around. I love how you can hear bits of words floating off into the distance if you care to pay attention to the details. It’s a powerful opening statement to this opus. The acoustic fade out at the end is a nice touch.

Way Strange World – Initially this song felt like an homage to everything that was great about Interpol. You’ll find great percussive work providing a rhythm as Fredrick leads you to the swirling chorus; I love the way he stretches out syllables into new notes. Pay close attention to the jittering noise here, as it all points towards the album’s close.

The All-Right Side of Just OK – This song offers an upbeat version of dreamy pop. The vocals are a touch cloudy, and you can hear the frantic guitar trying to push the song…yet it also seems like its always playing catch up. On the song’s latter half you get to experience some of the nosier elements the band bring to the fold on this release, bring cacophony, and the track, to an abrupt end.

A Story – Perhaps my favorite song on the record. I love the lyrical content such as “tell me a story/be sure to make it sad” or “tell me about the worst day/the worst day you’ve ever had.” I particularly love how he carries lines into other lines without even taking a breath…and that chorus. Ugh…this song kills me.

Jealously – Perhaps a song about love, but perhaps just a song about our abilities to let people go. This number is one of the LP’s shortest, and as such, its a nice bit of respite from the overwhelming brilliance that came before. It also seems to calm the listener ahead of the record’s more boisterous moments.

Orange Kicks – Seems like even the greats can influence one another (or so I like to think) as I feel this song looks to the modern incarnation of The Wedding Present. Guitar chords ring in a discordant manner, while Fredrick cooly offers his voice. The song rushes to a frantic finish, with guitars furiously tearing through your speakers.

Oscillating Redux – Fans of the Black Watch will surely recognize this tune, as it appeared in a slightly different fashion on Led Zeppelin Five. There’s still a lasting sensation of brooding, but a slight touch-up on the chorus deepens the emotional impact. It also seems like the band flirt with replacing “oscillating” with “isolating,” but who am I to make that call. For me, this is a standout, though it was definitely one of the record’s slow burners.

Satellite – You’d be forgiven after the opening few moments to expecting the band to settle into calming guitar pop, but let the song unfold. It builds and it builds, forcefully, yet there’s balance in the guitar notes on top of the mix, steadying the track for pop fans. It’s probably some of the noisiest stuff I’ve heard from the band, and then it fades out with nearly a minute of unexplained silence. And then it’s over, leaving you to question the purpose of said silence. It has to be intentional, but what does it mean? Where does one go from here?

I thought about that. I thought about how everything John Fredrick does has a purpose an intention. And then I gave in. I decided it was okay to enjoy that silence. I needed a break, a moment to process The Gospel According to John. And in the end, I pressed play and listened all over again, this time knowing that I could handle all that was before me, as there’s solace waiting in the end. And once there, it’s best to press play and start all over again.

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