Rumors of the death of rock ‘n roll are greatly exaggerated. Want proof? Check out these two recent releases.
Watts, Flash Of White Light: Once upon a time, real rock ‘n roll could be heard anywhere and everywhere – AM radio, picnics, barbecues, shopping centers, sporting events, etc. It was part of the fabric of daily life, particularly when its practitioners spiked their guitar and drum attacks with liberal doses of big left and right hooks.
On its third long-player, Flash Of White Light, Boston’s Watts unabashedly and unapologetically summon those days gone by and deliver forty minutes of blistering rock ‘n roll tempered by the occasional slower burn to keep the heat at least somewhat manageable.
The band’s basic approach is spelled out in the title track, which kicks off the festivities: “Don’t get excited/hold on tight/blazing guitars and a flash of white light,” begins the chorus in delivering a perfect statement of purpose:
“Wasted Angels” provides a nice excuse to pump one, or both, of your fists in the air while singing happily along. “Rocks” sounds precisely as advertised, particularly if you think about a mid-70’s album of the same name issued by a rather successful Boston-based band. As is also to be expected, “Ghosts On The Dancefloor” has a great beat, and you can dance to it!
The less rousing tracks on Flash Of White Light are no less successful. “Wrapped Like Candy” slowly makes its case for more than three minutes before descending into a long fade-out. “Sidewinder” plays like a missing track from Exile On Main Street. “Flying Over With Bombs” nicely sound checks “Sweet Child O’ Mine”:
The guys in Watts know they are not producing wildly original sounds. They even joke about it on “Trick,” which closes the eleven-song set by beginning: “We wrote this song today/you thought you heard it play when you were younger.”
Indeed, we did. So what? Its only rock ‘n roll, but I like it. A lot.
Get it here.
One Like Son, New American Gothic: “Each song from the album ‘New American Gothic’ was written and recorded in 1 week during the 52 Weeks Songwriting Project,” says the band’s page on Bandcamp. If you dig deeper on Bandcamp, you also will find an album called 52 Weeks, which contains the fifty-two (!) songs from which the thirteen tracks on New American Gothic were culled.
One Like Son is largely a project of Stephen Poff, with the able assistance of Clinton Kirby on bass, Brian Seagraves on piano, and Ryan Fennell on drums. The band received a bunch of press a few years ago for producing an “entire album on an iPhone.”
Everything on New American Gothic screams “big.” The guitars are loud and full. The drums pound relentlessly. Poff’s vocals are strong and emphatic throughout. Even better is that New American Gothic is also chock full of great songs.
The title track is a pounding five-minute story of enduring modern romance between “the misfits and the preachers’ daughters.” Its chorus will ring around your head for quite some time:
“Punk Rock Prom Queen” explores a similar theme — love will protect you against the scoffing of small-minded conformists. Its doppelganger,”Sister Mary (Got Her Gun),” is completely un-serious Power Pop featuring this rather nice sing-along verse: “Bang bang went her gun/bang bang no more fun/bang bang turn and run/no one’s safe cause she’s mad as hell tonight.” “What Momma Knew” is a head-bopping bit of rockin’ pop about the transcendent power of rock and roll and Star Wars. If all else fails, of course, you can always “close your eyes and live inside your head”:
New American Gothic does not try to break any new stylistic ground. Instead, One Like Son deliver thirteen examples of finely crafted, big sounding, melodic rock ‘n roll. You can’t beat that. Get it here, and play it loud.