The Watchers: To the Rooftops

Daniel Mitchell

The Watchers

To the Rooftops

Label: Gern Blandsten
US Release Date: 2003-04-29
UK Release Date: Available as import

Pay attention, people, because this one's going to be some Entertainment! that just keeps "Burning Down the House". To the Rooftops is the latest effort from post-punk rockers the Watchers, and it's so darn angular and groovy, you'll be knocking things over with your out of control booty shaking and freaking out in general.

The most obvious comparisons to the Watchers would be pre-'83 Gang of Four, early Talking Heads, Trenchmouth, and hints of early Dismemberment Plan. Whereas Trenchmouth and the Plan sounded modern from time to time, the Watchers prefer to keep it early '80's the entire way through To the Rooftops, which is totally fine with me. The bass guitar is super-loopy and overdriven, and plays very catchy little tunes. The guitars are completely spastic and overdriven, as well, as they don't seem to be distorted. They have that really high pitched, grating sound found on early Gang of Four work. The notes they hit are weird and, for the most part, don't seem to follow any clear pattern, that is unless you're used to this kind of stuff. The drummer is absolutely fantastic, doing all manner of weird syncopations and off kilter hits, making this one qualify as math rock, too. The lead singer is kind of a chode, in that he steals David Byrne's vocal tone, while stealing Andy Gill's unique enunciation style. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy both of those gentlemen's vocal styles, but the Watchers lead vocalist's thievery is just too much too take.

Luckily for that guy, his back-up band rocks so freaking hard that his theft can be overlooked. The Watchers are absolutely wonderful! Now, please take into consideration that Gang of Four is one of my all-time favorite bands, so I'm probably biased. This band features members of the Hex (who put out an EP on Troubleman), and we all know how super a label Troubleman is for giving us things angular and funky, so while the Watchers may think it's still 1982, they do have roots in more modern forms of post punk. The Hex EP on Troubleman was hot stuff, and when I found out that the Watchers had members of the Hex, I began to like them even more.

The best tracks here are the up-tempo ones, including the driving "Follow Me Follower". What makes this track sound out is the drummer's weird little tricks. He's actually keeping time in a mid-tempo, but he's hitting drums all over the place, making the song much more urgent feeling than it should be. The guitarist grates against muted strings for most of the song, except for the chorus, when he just pounds out the same two weird, dissonant chords, while the bassist plays a head-bobbing little riff. The lead singer just kind of whines throughout the song, but it works. "Two World's" is shamefully Gang of Four, but it's so fevered and spastic that I just don't care. This track features a keyboard from time to time that plays weird little lines here and there, and at other times shouts out a bizarre horror film note. The guitars go absolutely nuts, and the drummer plays a souped up disco beat that's absolutely addicting.

To the Rooftops is a great record, period. I may not like the lead singer's lack of originality, but he is perfect for this type of band. If you're looking for something to lose your cool to, this is for you. Kids looking to make their parents cringe, look no further than this one, as the grating guitars will have them screaming at you within minutes. I'm glad I got a chance to hear this, as I now have another band to watch closely, for further releases.

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