The Witches: On Parade

[13 October 2003]

By Jason Thompson

The Future of Rock

Albums this dull have no excuse for being made. In this business there are all sorts of bad albums. There are the ones that sound like they were created by novice karaoke kings and queens who somehow got talked into doing their very own album. There are the types that were recorded in the bedroom and should have stayed there (not all of these types are like this; some, such as Devendra Banhart’s and Jandek’s work, are very much indeed captivating). There are the types by local rock heroes from some rinky-dink town that manage to rock the local bar down the street but have no business assaulting the rest of the world with their noise. And then there are the types like the Witches, who show flashes of promise here and there, but ultimately have nothing interesting to play at all, wasting everyone’s time in the process. Yes, folks. This is the future of rock and roll.

I know, it’s cynical. But hey, think of how much music gets released each year. Now think of the number of those albums that become hits. Radio hits, MTV hits, whatever, just a bona fide hit. Now think of the numbers of those songs or albums or bands you really don’t care for at all. A lot of folks out there . . . this is the music they deal with on a daily basis. Far from the reaches of the indie labels, content to enjoy whatever is popular and sold at Wal-Mart. That’s fine. But now think of all that other music out there being released daily that you or they aren’t hearing and that is also just as bad. This is the reality of the situation. So much time and resources spent on creating music that is just sub-par. It’s not offensive or wretched or terrible, really. It’s just simply boring. Thinking of that, one starts to realize how much plain vanilla trash is going around.

The Witches hail from Detroit. They’re some kind of garage type of group with a spacey twist. Professional sounding enough to get out of the garage, but lacking the vision and/or fashion to actually make the leap. After all, so many of today’s “garage rock” trendsetters are not about the music at all, but the look. We could say that at least the Witches are being honest here and riding with the tunes, but the songs here just aren’t that thrilling, even though some do contain moments where it feels like this band could rightfully take off.

But they aren’t doing anything that hasn’t been tried out by other bands in the area to varying degrees of success or failure. What’s keeping this band down is Troy Gregory’s vocals. Kind of rough but not gutsy enough. Sort of melodic, but not as tuneful as it could be, Gregory roughs it through ten tracks here, most of which are short and sweet but still feel like they’ve gone on for far too long. Sometimes, Gregory almost gets it right with the rest of the band, which features Johnny Na$hinal and Eugene Strobe on guitars, Martin M on drums, and Phil Skarich on bass. “I Luv’d Wrong” has some good riffage and a buttoned down rhythm, but it never builds up beyond its initial 30 seconds of promise. Same with “Y Do U Make Me Feel Like That”. You want this band to rock out, but it never happens, despite them having all the ingredients to do so. Frustrating at best.

Along with the straight-up attempts at rocking is stranger fare, such as “The Invisible Miserable People Have Reappeared”, “Who Wants 2 Sleep with the Birthday Grrrl”, and the eight-minute, punishing closer that is “On the Haunted Side of the House”. On these tracks, the Witches attempt to bring in some flakier elements, bringing to mind the weirder garage rock acts of the late ‘60s, but it just isn’t enough. If you don’t have the chops to make the normal stuff interesting, why even bother with the weirder dreck?

The bottom line here is that On Parade is an album millions have already passed by without knowing of its existence, and rightfully so. The Witches do not bring anything new to the table, and their by-the-numbers approach to garage rock is about as stale as it gets nowadays. I’m sure there are people out there who fall all over themselves for bands like this, but with their dime-a-dozen personality, the Witches have a long way to go before earning any true respect outside the local watering holes.

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