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Music Review: The Black Watch – Led Zeppelin Five

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Despite the clever Led Zeppelin Five title, The Black Watch sound nothing like The Golden Godz. The band does utilize some occasional feedback, but only as an accoutrement to the jingle-jangle. In fact, what The Black Watch remind me the most of is something we used to call “college rock.”

I don’t really mean that as the back-handed compliment it probably sounds like, but when you title the opening song on your album “Oscillating,” you gotta expect some flak. The way I figure it is that they have either logged a little time in English Lit, or have an unhealthy identification with Steve Kilbey. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you.

Just kidding. I love Kilbey and The Church, and there are moments during Led Zeppelin Five that remind me of favorites such as Heyday (1985) and Starfish (1988). I imagine The Black Watch get tired of the comparisons to the Go-Betweens, but it is there. More to the point however is the simple beauty of their shimmering pop songs.

This is a style of music I never tire of. How can you? Going back to middle period Beatles, through Big Star, then one-hit new wave wonders like The Records, and on into today, this is a music that just makes a person smile. Add to those melodies some truly interesting, (if erudite) lyrics, and you have a marvelous confection.

Although there is nary a bum track on the disc, I have found myself humming “Like In The Movies,” and “The Stars In The Sky” often these past few weeks. For solid guitar crunch, I’ll take the opening of “Earl Gray Tea,” thank you. But the ultimate Black Watch feedback fun is on the “hidden” track, “It’s All Too Much.”

There are some who consider George Harrison’s “It’s All Too Much” to be the finest song The Beatles ever recorded. I’m one of them. It is an absolutely brilliant tune that seemed to go unnoticed for years, as it was buried on the dreadful Yellow Submarine soundtrack album. The Black Watch get it straight on, and totally nail it.

For a variety of reasons, I am a big fan of Led Zeppelin Five. The words and music combine to present one of those perfect storm records—when the music sings, the lyrics bite—and when the music threatens, the words soothe.

I like this record a lot, and I’m not really sure why. It may be because of the familiarity, like the first time I read Women by Charles Bukowski. It hit me most especially during the opening lines of “The Maid’s Been Around.”

“I thought I might go drink away some pain, it’s nowhere that I haven’t been again.” Yeah, I know these guys, and I know that song. And most of all, I know that feeling, and it sounds just like this.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org/writers/charlie-doherty Charlie Doherty

    These guys (from Los Angeles) have been around forever and never put out bad records. They are the ’90s and ’00s best kept secret. And maybe that’s because of poor marketing, because until your review, I had no idea they even had this record out. Their websites sure don’t say anything about it from what I’ve seen!