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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Black Watch
Very Mary Beth
Stone Garden Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
The Black Watch has been around for a while now- 15 years to be exact. In those 15 years, The Black Watch has garnered the occasional rumble of praise from the underground and a few mainstream publications, but for the most part has gone entirely unnoticed. John Andrew Fredrick, the leader and primary songwriter, perhaps likes it that way, release an album fade into obscurity and then resurface a few years later, with another album, and so on. The lineup of The Black Watch has revolved quite a bit in the past, but Fredrick has always remained to nurture his pet project into adulthood.

With that said, this album sounds like it was made by a band that has been around a long time, like its from a band that's grown up and matured. The members have gotten over the spastic energy, instability, and unpredictability of youth. They've refined their sound through practice and exercising restraint. Predictably, this works both positively and negatively for the group. They can write a very polished and decent pop song, of which there are many throughout this disc; they are not subject to wild hit or miss eccentricities or gimmicks that plague many groups, and they rest on their considerable chops to evoke some response from the listener.

Conversely however, perhaps as a consequence of age or experience, there's an energy and rawness lacking that would make Very Mary Beth more appealing. A dose of unpredictability would be great addition to this outfit, and get them to let their hair down a little. Much of Very Mary Beth sounds middle of the road. It's not a somber record, but it's not subject to highs and lows either. It just maintains its stasis, without quickening the heartbeat or creating too much alarm.

A prime example of this is "Beautiful". The song is constructed around a pleasant melody and bopping guitar that is neither urgent nor laid back. The guitar lines are safe with just enough energy to motivate the listener to give a simple and small head bob in 4/4 time, and not much more.

In one last desperation attempt the band does manage to get it together on the last few tracks. Notably "The Girl of My Dreams" a pop gem that recalls, some of Treble Charger's best fuzzed out moments. The lyrics, throughout the album are generally smart and break from the inane standard love story content of most pop fare.

Very Mary Beth is a rock pop album for the adult contemporary set. It's one for those that have mellowed out a bit in their old age, but can still remember the the early 80's glory days of bands like the Cure and Hüsker Du, but can't stomach the volume anymore. So put it in the stereo and sip your Chardonnay, but don't move around too much, you don't want to spill a drop on that lovely new carpet.

Reviewed by Dan Williams
A staff writer based in Brooklyn, New York, Dan Williams is a frequent contributor to LAS magazine. He once lived in Köln, Germany for a semester, is currently persuing his MBA in New York, and recently switched sides and began working as a publicist for Special Ops Media in New York.

See other reviews by Dan Williams



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