Although described as an avowed Anglophile, and his band often considered ‘English sounding’, the truth is that Los Angeles based John Andrew Fredrick and the black watch have crafted a record here which recalls early R.E.M. and mixed that kind of intelligent writing with commercial high of Idlewild circa 1999/2000. Sometimes The Frank And Walters spring to mind too. It’s never less than enjoyable and sometimes is utterly beautiful, such as on the shimmery ‘April Fool‘, which just makes you want to zonk out in a trance, staring up at the ceiling in the comfort of your bed, followed by the even better ‘Get Me Out Of Echo Park‘ which could easily pass as an early eighties New Wave classic, along the lines of A Flock Of Seagulls or Talk Talk. It really is quite splendid.
‘Upsy Daisy‘ (no, not a reference to the Cbeebies show In The Night Garden) finds Fredrick at his most Stipe like and as a result very easy to love. For some reason it reminds me ever so slightly of Flowered Up too, though I can’t quite put my finger on why that should be. And then ‘Knowing It Won’t Come Again‘ is just about as close as you can get to a punch the air indie guitar anthem.
Still, the possible references flow, and Fredrick goes all Syd Barrett on us for ‘Oh Mary‘. I feel like he was probably dressed in a crushed velvet smoking jacket and a frilly blouse when this one was recorded, possibly while brandishing a golden cane.
There is a lot to love here, from the dreamy depths of ‘Darling‘, the perfect pop of the Ride like ‘Jingle-Jangle Loop Di Loop‘, to ‘Eustacia’s Dream‘, which has a little of the Ariel Pinks about it, and ‘Me_You_Me‘, which must be the best song that The House Of Love never wrote. That sense of otherworldliness plays a big factor in the irresistible charm of Magic Johnson.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that The Black Watch have been around for over 30 years, but this latest offering is testament to why they’re still here, and proof, should it be needed, that they should be cherished as something of a national treasure.
The Magic Johnson is released on August 9th through ATOM Records.