Dorm room, 1980s. The stereo is blasting college radio, bands like Robyn Hitchcock, the Jazz Butcher, House of Love. John Frederick is doing his homework, both literally and figuratively. Frederick is a PhD candidate at the University of California Santa Barbara, as well as a musician, and he’s studying not only English lit but how to write fine, literate, jingle-jangle indie rock. Upon graduation he forms the Black Watch, writes a zillion decent but not overwhelmingly great chimey-guitar-bass-drum tunes and proceeds to put out eight records on various small labels, the biggest being Zero Hour. Some of these do well and garner airplay on college radio, others go unnoticed. Which brings us to the most recent Black Watch record Tatterdemalion, eleven more songs that are nice enough in a ‘80s college-radio sort of way—especially standouts like the title track and “The Angels Just Might Be on Her Side”—but it’s probably not going to win John Frederick legions of new fans. If not for lack of quality, then simple lack of interest in the style.
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