Song of the day: Watts – "On The Dial"

February 6, 2011

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, here’s another band I’ve never heard of before…

A chap called John (Hi, John!) emailed me and asked if I’d be interested in listening to an album by a band called Watts. I responded with the opposite of “No way. Leave me alone. I don’t like music.”

(Note to self: stop being a smart-alec, Peter. Just say that you were interested, and leave it at that.)

The album is called On The Dial – but you probably figured that out already if you saw the picture of the album cover at the top of this post.

When I read the beginning of the blurb that accompanied the album I became slightly concerned:

Watts “make a superb retro rock ‘n’ roll racket” says Rob Forbes (Leicester Bangs).

As soon as I saw the phrase “retro rock ‘n’ roll” in there I thought “Oh-oh” and imagined things like:

  • ducktail hairstyles
  • leather jackets
  • hot rods
  • Alan Freed coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll”
  • people saying “daddy-o” and “neat” and “zoot suit” etc.

A part of me then imagined that Watts, when playing live, and in much the same way that The Ramones started every song with “1-2-3-4!”, might start every one of their songs with “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock…”.

However, the next sentence in the blurb said:

A dynamic four-piece aptly named for the gentlemen drummer of the Rolling Stones. Watts’ sound combines all the best elements of 70’s glam, old school punk, new wave, British Invasion and straight up rock-n-roll to create a timeless amalgam that is at once familiar and fresh.

Okey dokey, then. They’re not a 50’s revivalist band – they’re a 70’s revivalist band. I can dig it.

Before we get to the music, I’d like to comment on one aspect of the album’s artwork. On the front cover it proudly proclaims that it’s “In Stereo”. I like that.

I’ve now listened to the album a few times, and I can say that it is indeed a 70’s-ish rock album, the kind you’ll like if you like early-70’s Rolling Stones, early-70’s Humble Pie, early-70’s Faces et al. Or, putting it another way: if you like music by sweaty, hairy rockers then Watts is possibly the band for you.

I’d say that their music could be seen as being in the general vicinity of The Black Crowes, but without the irritation factor.

(I find the posturing of The Black Crowes irritating. I’m not especially keen on their “Hey everybody, we’re a real dirty-rock-n-roll band from the 1970’s. Really. We’ve actually been transported from the 1970s via time travel. Just look at us – we have lots of long hair, we wear leather jeans, we open our shirts to show off our chests, and we drink whiskey… out of a bottle… on stage… while we’re playing” etc. To me, it’s anachronistic, it’s faux 70’s rock. It’s the musical equivalent of playing dress-ups. And don’t get me started on Lenny Kravitz…)

Because On The Dial is an album containing 12 tracks, I’ll try not to waste your time by commenting on all of them. (I probably will, but I’ll try not to.)

Track 1: “On The Dial”

Link
This is a solid rock song, well-played. Can’t argue with that.

Track 2: “Chaperone”

Link
This is a solid rock song, too.

Track 3: “Afterburn”
Another solid rock song. I’m beginning to see a pattern forming here.

Track 4: “Time To Give The Devil His Due”

Link
More solid rock. Of the first four songs, this was my favourite. Incidentally, it’s the first song on the album not sung by lead vocalist Dan Kopko. I hope that doesn’t imply that I think Dan’s a dreadful singer and will only listen to Watts if Dan’s not singing. I think Dan is a fine, raspy, rock singer. His voice is well suited to the music. But so is the voice on this track, which belongs to the band’s drummer, Johnny “Rock” Lynch. But no matter who’s singing on these tracks, there’s some decent singing on this album.

Track 5: “Girls on Holiday”

Link
I like how the band starts a song about girls on holiday by quoting the main riff in girl group The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me”. I thought that was a nice touch. Unless it was unintentional. If that riff-nicking was unintentional, then I’ll say that was a nice subconscious touch.

Track 6: Dancehall Days & Nights
I can’t think of anything spectacularly insightful or witty to say about this one other than it’s… um… er… it’s a solid rock song. I can say that this is probably the most Stones-y song on the album. How much you like Sticky Fingers will determine how often you’ll play this track.

Track 7: “She Wants To Rock”
This is the second song not sung by Dan “Why won’t anybody let me sing a song?” Kopko. This time it’s sung by guitarist John Blout (Hi, John!). Hey, wait a minute – is this the same John who emailed me about the album? (Note to self: yes.)

Track 8: “No Secrets”

Link
I was pleasantly surprised to see this song here. This is a cover version of a song by The Angels, a 70’s pub rock band from Adelaide (in South Australia – where I live). “No Secrets” was a big hit in Australia in 1980. This version by Watts is, I’m relieved to say, is not too bad. Watts’ version is pretty close to the original, so it’s not startingly different in any particular way. (I guess they like playing the song “as is”, so to speak, instead of feeling the need to “reinterpret” it to fit their “vision” of how they think it “should” have sounded in the first place – and anything else that requires quotation marks.) Actually, it’s so similar to the original that Watts’ lead singer Dan “I like The Angels” Kopko even whispers “Won’t you please tell me what the time is?” at the end of the song. The Angels’ lead singer Doc Neeson whispered “Can you please me what the time is?” at the end of the original. And the main guitar solo is identical to the original. The only thing I miss from Watts’ version is the twin-guitar attack (à la Thin Lizzy) in the original.

Track 9: “Don’t Mind”
A slightly slower solid rock song. Being slightly slower, I guess this one could be called “mid-tempo”. (There I go with the quotation marks again. Sorry about that.) But whatever it’s called, I like it. It has a drone in it. I love drones. By the way, this is another song not sung by Dan “Why do I bother showing up at gigs?” Kopko. This one’s sung by the band’s bass player, Craig Lapointe. Maybe this is an Equal Opportunities band.

Track 10: “Fight Song”
Yep. It’s a solid rock song.

Track 11: “The Times”
I have a feeling they’re not singing about an old, old British newspaper. Nope, they’re not singing about The Times, they’re singing about something being “a sign of the times”. Exactly what that something is I couldn’t tell you, mainly because I wasn’t paying that much attention to the lyrics. However, one lyric I did notice was when they sang “I can’t drink it out of my mind” (at 1:50), paraphrasing The Rolling Stones. If you’re familiar with The Rolling Stones (I dare say you are), you’d recognise a similar phrase in a fairly well-known Stones song.

Track 12: “Sweethearts Of The Radio”
I like the pun. (Byrds fans will know.) Which prompts me to ask the question: why didn’t anyone think of that pun before now? Despite that potentially unanswerable question, this song is par for the course. In other words, it’s another solid rock song. But I reckon you were way ahead of me there.

Disclaimer:

I didn’t provide you with every song on the album because:

  1. it would have taken me ages to put those links in the post
  2. having all the songs here may discourage you from buying the album in case you were interested in it – and I wouldn’t want a Watts Lynch Mob™ coming after me.
  3. you want to be at least a little surprised when you hear a new album, don’t you?

Portentous Pronouncement:

Here’s my final verdict: it’s an album for fans of sweaty hairy rockers. It well-sung (the band members have good hairy-rocker voices), well-played, well-recorded (it sounds beefy, just like a hairy-rocker album should do), and has more up-tempo rock songs than, er, down-tempo ones, which is something I prefer on a rock album. (I’m not a lover of rock ballads. Ugh.)

If you like what you’ve heard here today, then I heartily recommend you find out where you can buy the album. Hang on, I’ll find out for you…

Right, if you want to buy On The Dial you can get it at these music emporia*:

  • CD Baby (It’s only $10. Bargain!)
  • iTunes (Which I don’t recommend, because when you buy the album you don’t get a CD, you get a download. It’s not the same!)
  • CD Universe (that’s much better – you get a CD. I like CDs.)

Watts on Facebook
Watts on MySpace
Watts on YouTube

(*I’m pretty sure that the plural of emporium is emporia, not emporiums. Is there anyone out there who knows ancient Greek and can tell me if I’m making a big linguistic fool of myself?)

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