The mainstay of this longstanding LA band is an English professor and author of comic fiction named John Andrew Fredrick.
The fact that The Black Watch website is Fredrick’s name signifies that the 80s influenced jangle pop is, to all intents and purposes, a solo project. He does have a backing band but he writes and sings all the songs in addition to playing guitars, keyboards and percussion.
After over three decades of music-making, Fredrick shows no signs of slowing down or letting up despite only gaining what is diplomatically referred to ”underground acclaim”. The title of a simultaneously released best of collection - ’31 Years Of Obscurity’ – puts the situation into a starker perspective.
I can’t honestly say that Magic Johnson stands much hope of being his breakthrough release but I’m sure he is resigned to this fact already.
Although an American by birth, Fredrick largely adopts an anglicized accent and vernacular. The track title Upsy-Daisy is a dead giveaway in this regard. Mad, is about someone who is “round the twist” and of whom he sings: “I don’t know what you’re on about half of the time”.
I can imagine Fredrick’s record collection having a special section devoted to albums by British groups such as The Cure, The Icicle Works, Orange Juice and The Teardrop Explodes. Edwyn Collins’ influence is certainly obvious on <>Jingle-Jangle Loop De Loop.
‘Magic Johnson’ consists of a full 12-track album together with four bonus songs from 2018’s The Paper Boats EP making for a generous playing time of just under an hour.
The song paying tribute to the American basketball hero, after whom the record is named, comes as a bit of an anti-climax; it’s a throwaway ditty which lasts just over a minute.
The guitar centred arrangements are the best thing about the songs. The melodies are bright and catchy but, not possessing a particularly distinctive singing voice, the vocals are fairly anonymous or simply get lost in the mix.
I fear that further years of obscurity await.
The Black Watch’s website