Having just completed Doug Brod’s excellent ‘They Just Seem A Little Weird’ book, this third album for Rum Bar Records from Boston based rockers Watts couldn’t have dropped in my review stack at any more appropriate moment.
Well just like Brod’s book took me back to the magical days of discovering the likes of Cheap Trick, Starz, Aerosmith and KISS for the first time and making me go all gooey eyed in the process, this all new ten tracker celebrates that same glorious era of musical creativity whilst giving it an adrenalin booster shot just right for the 2020s.
‘Loud & Fast’ kicks things off in fine style conjuring up a kind of Blackhearts meets Motorhead vibe with vocalist/guitarist Dan Kopko’s instantly recognisable gravelly roar front and centre hammering home the song’s huge hook. ‘Queens’ is where the band’s underlying KISS influence really does get turned up to eleven, and it’s better than anything the New York glam veterans have written in the last four decades, plus it’s delivered with a Judas Priest lyrical nod that has me grinning from ear to ear every time I hear it. This is how I want MY rock ‘n’ roll that’s for sure.
The other great thing about Watts is that three of the four members can sing lead, so when bassist Tim McCoy takes the microphone for ‘Breaking Glass’ this leaves Kopko to deliver some soaring Lizzy-esque duel harmony guitar with his counterpart John Blout, plus when drummer John Lynch delivers ‘The Night The Lights Went Down’ his cleaner vocal delivery lends this Black Crowesy roots rocker a more power-poppy sheen and band in the process offers up a potential breakthrough radio hit.
Elsewhere ‘Shady’ would not sound out of place on a post-Bowie intervention Mott The Hoople album, whilst ‘Heavy Metal Kids’ has an instant “in his prime” (as in prior to 1985) Bryan Adams charm to it, that if this world has any justice to it will see it being sung in karaoke bars worldwide for decades to come, and I really do not mean that as a put down. Then there’s the incredible ‘Shocking Pink’, a song Blout/Kopko (who write seven of the ten tunes here) surely must have written whilst listening to Jellyfish, albeit here the glorious vocal hooks are all played out by a band who really are hooked on a Heartbreakers (Tom Petty version) trip rather than Supertramp and Wings.
And talking of breaking hearts, the sleazy Thunders/Dolls vibe of ‘Seventeen’ is a hellraising, fag in the corner of the mouth kind of rocker driven along by some brass stabs that will have you straight up and stomping your creepers, and if you’re looking for the perfect morning after soundtrack to counter that then ‘When the Party Ends’ is just what the doctor ordered for your hangover from hell (even if to my ears at least it’s got a bit of Stereophonics thing going on). Which just leaves the only track on here that has been previously available, the prophetic and Cars-like ‘All Done With Rock & Roll’, which kind of takes us full circle, ensuring as the final chords chime out you just have to press play again.
The world needs ‘Shady Rock & Rollers’ like Watts right now, and believe me when I say you need this record in your life. It’s out now via Rum Bar Records and really is essential listening!!!!!
Author: Johnny Hayward